Features in Summa
Summa is an integrated search system which simultaneously accesses a number of different data sources currently provided to the users of the State and University Library, and which could conceivably be expanded to make even more information available to the library's users.
Summa is developed collaboratively by librarians, IT-developers, and usability experts. Summa is a search system with many user-friendly features, all of which share the same goal: To help the users find the best resources possible, without them actively asking for assistance.
We are currently in the developmental stage, and are planning for further usability-oriented and technical development. For inquiries about the Summa project, feel free to contact us at email@example.com.
Integrated search and sort by relevance
Users don’t concern themselves with technicalities such as databases and data sources; first and foremost, they want some relevant resources. This is why Summa searches across all the different data sources and presents results for the user in a single search result sorted by relevance. The integrated indexing of the different data sources into one index means that the users in most cases don’t even experience that the system is doing something completely new and different.
Some users’ concept of relevance is based primarily upon whether the resources are new or old. Therefore Summa also offers the possibility of sorting by date.
Extra information that adds value and meaning
A library’s greatest wish is to deliver relevant material of high quality to its users. Therefore, it is unfortunate if self-sufficient users don’t find all the quality material which is available on isolated library-driven web sites.
In Summa, valuable resources from several different Danish library web sites are shown in situations where these information fragments are most relevant.
Availability shown in the search results
Today’s libraries carry both physical and digital material, and Summa consequently searches in both domains. From a user’s perspective, the availability of the resources is crucial: Can you get the resource now, or do you have to wait? And if you do, what is the estimated waiting time?
Take a look at these search results and see how much the status differs between the different resources:
Did you mean...?
Most people think of Google when you say "Did you mean", and they associate it with a very useful function. A usability servey of 5 Danish public library web sites, conducted by UNI-C (The Danish IT Centre for Education and Research) in 2003, showed that 16% of all searches failed because of typos and spelling errors. Both good spellers and bad will find suggestions for similar searches useful.
For example, if you search for paralel, Summa suggests that you search for parallel.
Do you know Google Suggest? In that case you will quickly recognize the way Summa suggests searches. Perhaps Summa can suggest a word that you didn’t think of, or maybe you can see that there are alternative and relevant search possibilites other than the one you were thinking of. As an example, try to write “go” in the search field and see what Summa suggests:
Summa bases its suggestions on input from other users that resulted in one or more hits. In this way, user generated data can be used in a helpful capacity.
Find an expert
In a field study conducted in 2006, we found that the users in many cases don’t know that the State and University Library has academic experts in a number of subjects ready and available to answer questions from the users. The reason is that the users primarily use the search system, and not the rest of the web site, where the experts are available via subject-specific parts of the website and the ask-a-question-pages.
To promote the academic experts, they now appear as searchable resources in Summa, and they show up in those particular cases where there is a relationship between the expert’s knowledge and the user’s query.
If you search on kønsstudier (gender studies) you’ll find our expert in that subject.
A picture is worth a thousand words
In many cases, the users identify a resource by its looks, which is a challenge when you want to design an interface for the digital library that creates a good experience for the user. An obvious possiblity for enrichment is to show the cover of books and CDs together with the bibliographic information. Book covers are retrieved from Amazon.com.
As in a web shop, the user can put items from their search results into a virtual basket. The selected resources can be ordered or reserved at a later time in a simple workflow. Furthermore, the user can export records to RefWorks, which is a very popular system for handling literature references. Print and e-mail are two other possibilites connected to the resources in the basket.
An academic library in Denmark has many users – students and researchers – who primarily write and speak English. That’s why a multiple language interface is a part of the basic design of Summa, so the user can always change to the appropriate language.
Other users who borrowed this, also borrowed...
Users don’t always know what they want to borrow before they visit the digital library – and sometimes they want more than they initially planned. We have therefore built a popular function into Summa that is largely inspired by a tool which Amazon.com uses to sell a great number of books.
If you search for the book Linda Evangelista Olsen you can see what other books were loaned by users who borrowed this book (as well as a lot of other extra information).
Editorial reviews from Amazon
In the process of screening materials for relevance, it is useful for the users to be able see how other users have evaluated those resources. Summa therefore integrates editorial reviews from Amazon.com in the records where possible. In the future we imagine that researchers and instructors could rate and review resources which would be of great value to the students.
If you look at Jakob Nielsen’s book Designing Web Usability, you also see an editorial review integrated from Amazon.com.
Display of closely-related works
Some bibliographic records are intellectually related as "works", e.g., books available in multiple editions, and it makes sense to the user if these records are brought together in the interface. We are currently working on the implementation of this idea in Summa.
Clusters – fully automatic classification
A truly advanced search algorithm is built into Summa’s single search field (the same design that the users are accustomed to from Google, Amazon and other useful services). Much of what the user used to specify in the advanced search interface, without quite being able to predict the outcome, is now presented within the search results as automatically-generated clusters of interesting information.
Clusters can be used in searches where the user is trying to find something specific, or in searches where the user doesn’t exactly know what the goal is, i.e., the user is looking for inspiration. Clustering is an example of the fact that the search system of the future will, to a greater degree, take the user by the hand and present relevant suggestions during the search process, instead of imposing the burden of refining the search criteria on the user in the beginning of the search process. We are currently working on optimizing the clustering function.
For more information, download our white paper about Summa or feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.