2016 EDS Conference

As a new information professional, I feel that it’s really important that I get as much information about the changes and developments that are happening in the information profession. So I signed myself up to attend the 2016 EDS conference at Regent’s University.

I didn’t really know what EDS was or does, so I thought it was a great opportunity to learn more about the software that is being used in libraries. In addition, it was free, which meant it was easily accessible to someone like me who is new to conferences.

I don’t think I knew what discovery systems were either. I understood that there were systems that allowed people to search a range of databases, simultaneously. However, maybe due to my lack of awareness, I didn’t know that were actually called discovery services.

I think this is partly due to the library I currently work in. Everything is separate – the OPAC and the different subscription databases have to be searched individually. In addition, I was unaware that I was using a discovery service when searching for information on my university’s library catalogue. So I went to this conference with a very open and ignorant mind. I didn’t know what to expect and I was happy to take anything on-board.

What I found was that a lot of universities are using EDS to make their resources more discoverable. And most importantly, many universities are actively evaluating how useful EDS has actually been in helping to discover information and what they can do, as librarians, to improve it using the features built into EDS.

Thus, one of the presentations that really got my attention was the ‘Did DISCOVER democratise journal usage?’. The presentation took us through a librarian’s journey of assessing whether EDS had actually made resources more discoverable and whether it was a good thing or not.

For example, the presenter remarked that not all journals are equal. Thus, whilst the service allows more articles to be discovered from lesser known journals and publishers, it could also mean that articles from the big journals/publishers may be put at the bottom of the pile.

Another aspect that I was pleased to learn about was the research that had gone into how students search for information – students’ information behaviour. I think that a lot of librarians believe that if they get the right package that makes searching super easy and looks and works similar to search engines like Google, students should love it and adopt it immediately. However, as the studies conducted by EDS and some librarians show, discovery services are not being fully utilised by students.

One reason is that students may not know how to use or want to use certain features. For example, the use of ‘limiters’ may cause students to think that they may over use this feature and miss out on important articles. Also, students aren’t utilising the save an article/book feature and are instead using tabs as a way of saving information they’ll want to look at later.

However, EDS are continuously trying to develop software that will be used by students to search for information.

For example, EDS pitched a new mobile/tablet application where a student could quickly search for information, send some relevant articles to their email and have a look at them later. The world in which we live now, numerous scenarios come up when thinking about how useful this application could be, some of which were recognised by the developer.

For example, if they were in a queue lining up for coffee, in a lecture or just out and about and wanted to look something up. It is a very simple application that caters for a certain kind of situation.

People don’t use phone and tablets the same way they use laptops and computers. Having a site that is used for in-depth research reduced down for a smaller screen wouldn’t be helpful to the user. EDS recognised this and thus developed this idea.

However, one librarian seemed to want EDS to further develop the mobile site of their existing platform, to help users find information using their mobile devices. It seemed like they didn’t understand the purpose of the application to acknowledge that one size does not fit all.

As a student and having worked in a library, I feel as though I understand both perspectives. An application like the one described above, seems simple and easy to use if I wanted to quickly find information. I don’t want to have to filter the results or look at what journal it’s from. I just want information. But as a librarian, you want to provide options and all the information that comes with the resource.

It is hard to create a balance between the two objectives and there is a lot of work that still needs to be done. This includes developing the technology and the features as well as making sure that we as librarians understand the needs of the students and utilise that knowledge to create systems meant for them.

Employing discovery services is just one way in which librarians are trying to make information more accessible. And the EDS conference revealed a side of librarianship that was virtually unknown to me. The thought that goes into developing these systems is astounding and the work that librarians put in to making it work, by adapting it to fit their users, is amazing.

What especially interested me was that research into user experience, information behaviour and information literacy, amongst other things, are being utilised to develop these systems. As a student, I did wonder how this type of research was being used in the real world.

All in all I gained a lot from attending the conference. I was able to expand my knowledge base as well as learn about what librarians are doing for their students. It was also great to learn that librarians are conducting their own research on their own students and systems, which makes entering the profession even more exciting.


The OPAC and the LMS

This week I was treated to lecture by Simon Berron and Andrew Preater from Imperial College London. It concerned the issues surrounding procuring a library management system (LMS) and procuring a user interface software and customising it.

During the lecture, I did get distracted by the fact that Imperial College London should be shortened to ICL, and kind of wondered if they haven’t, because it’s so similar to UCL. But other than that, I was drawn into the issues that surround procuring and using LMS’. They include considering the expertise of the staff, whether the LMS’ strengths will play to the strengths of the organisation, how easy it will be for the staff to use and understand, and whether the transfer of records will be smooth.

I also learned that procuring an LMS is a different exercise from procuring an OPAC. This means that if we get a customisable software, we can change the layout and the fonts used. We can add facets and include additional information.

For example, SOAS are using an open source software called Vufind. They were able to edit and manipulate the code so that they could improve the visual aesthetics of the OPAC and most importantly, improve the user experience (XP). The OPAC should work seamlessly with the LMS and display information in a logical, creative and easy to understand way. This way, users can get the most out of the system by getting access to the information that they need.

As I am starting to focus my interest in how users interact with a user interface I have noted some important features that need to be considered when designing a user interface. They are:

    • What are the users of that institute like? (Are they formal, casual, academic, hobbyists? This changes the nature of the interface.)


    • Thus font size and type are important. It has to suit the users and the institution.


    • Having images of the items retrieved in a search will help users identify the item.


    • Alignment of the different sections will help keep things neat, tidy and streamlined. Users will focus more on the information than on the design.


    • Layout of sections is crucial. If a section is not prominent or too prominent or in a place a user wouldn’t look for it, it can be difficult for users to navigate.


    • Knowledge of the language is very important especially if wanting to provide information in other languages. Use of an expert is the best thing and do not use google translate.


    • You have to think about what the user wants to know first. For example, usually on an OPAC, the user wants to know the title, the author, the location of the item and how long they can borrow it for.


    • Is it accessible to those with visual requirements? Performing accessibility testing will enable you to fix any issues the site has with modifying any features that are inaccessible to some users.


    • Would infinite scroll be better? I think so, but the back button/feature needs to place the user where they left off and not at the beginning. Some sites still don’t do that and you can end up right at the beginning, and no one wants to start again. Searches within searches would help users to narrow down their search.


With these pointers, I think any organisation should be able to design a site that would enhance the UX of its users. However technical staff/systems librarians would need to have the expertise to modify the code of an OPAC in order to make a real difference, if the original style of the OPAC bought does not support the aims of the institution. This is especially if it is an open source software.