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At the recent Charleston Conference, we were pleased to see discussions around discovery services focus on a crucial question: Does a library’s discovery service increase ROI?  Two independent studies looking to determine the effect of discovery services on usage—each focusing on different content— analyzed usage data of libraries using four different discovery services.  Both studies found that libraries using the Summon service saw increased usage of journal content more than libraries using other discovery services.  These early results highlight the superior value being received by libraries using the Summon service.

The first study1 focused on the effect of discovery systems on online journal usage.  The results demonstrate that libraries using the Summon service saw a significantly greater increase in the use of publisher-hosted journal content than libraries using any other discovery service, even after using sophisticated statistical tools to control for other variables.

This study will continue to evaluate the important interaction between discovery tools and publishers.  These first results show that the single, unified index architecture of the Summon service, with relevance ranking algorithms applied equally and across the entire body of index content, increases the value libraries get from their e-journal subscriptions.

The second study2 focused on comparing the impact of discovery services on JSTOR usage.  Preliminary results demonstrate after analyzing the performance of all the major discovery platforms, the study revealed the Summon service as the one to increase usage of JSTOR content for the majority 65% of mutual US Higher Education clients analyzed.

This study will look further into the impact of discovery services on JSTOR usage.  It will explore fundamental differences in how discovery services handle metadata, relevance ranking and linking; as well as how libraries configure their discovery service and link resolver; and how publishers syndicate their data to discovery services.

“Will this discovery service help my library address the problem we’re trying to solve?” is an important question for libraries to consider as they evaluate discovery services.  As Cody Hanson noted in a 2012 ALA session, discovery services “are really not interchangeable in terms of not only coverage, but feature sets, architecture of the systems, and even the business nature/goal of the vendor.”3 If increasing resource usage is important, the Summon service is the clear choice to have the most impact on increasing journal usage according to the early results of these studies. 

We’re excited rigorous research is being conducted to better understand the effect of discovery services in increasing ROI for libraries.  We look forward to additional insights and findings being shared by the researchers in the coming months.

1Discovery or Displacement?: A Large Scale Longitudinal Study of the Effect of Discovery Systems on Online Journal Usage, presented by Michael Levine-Clark (University of Denver), John McDonald (University of Southern California), Jason Price (SCELC Consortium) at Charleston Conference 2013

2Plato’s Cave Revisited, presented by Bruce Heterick (JSTOR) at Charleston Conference 2013

3Discovery Systems: The Promise and the Reality, presented by Cody Hanson at ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition 2012

06 Dec 2013

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