Anyone who has visited the library’s home page since Jan. 9 will know that USearch has been given prime real estate. It is now the first tool at your disposal in searching the library for academic resources.
Head of USearch Implementation Charlene Sorensen has received some encouraging feedback so far. One email sent by an enthusiastic student said, “I absolutely love this tool. Three key words and I’ve got 815 papers at my disposal. I recommend this to everyone I know who needs to look up references for a paper.”
This happy user concluded the email by giving USearch five out of five high-fives — a very favourable rating indeed.
So what exactly is USearch, and what can it offer to the library’s clientele?
Basically, USeach is a tool that simultaneously searches the catalogue and most of the library’s databases. In effect, a single search produces results from books, journal articles and audio/visual material all at once.
“We often talk about it being more like Google,” explained Sorensen, “but it’s more academic. It brings things that the system thinks is more relevant to the top.”
The user can refine his or her results by selecting more specific categories from the sidebar.
USearch responds to the difficulty many have encountered when looking for resources in the past.
“The library can be an obstacle course for a lot of people,” said Sorensen. “You’re looking for articles and books and databases, and it’s confusing for all of us… not even just for a first-year student.”
Besides being a more comprehensive tool, USearch also boasts some neat new features.
One is the recently-digitized Special Collections. Users now have online access to images of some of the library’s rarest materials. The Sorokin Collection and the A.W. Purdy Digital Archive are two examples.
USearch also has an optional personalization feature. By signing in with an NSID, a user can save past searches or request updates as materials for a certain subject are added to the database.
USearch can be thought of as the best general tool that will serve the greatest number of people in most cases.
Even so, Sorensen is careful to note that it’s not quite a one-stop shop:
“When a person is getting down to really specific research — a grad student, faculty — they will probably want to go right to the MLA database or PubMed, something that’s doing more in-depth, more specific searching.
“We’re still learning a little bit,” added Sorensen, “In what cases might one of these other tools be better? But that’s, again, that obstacle course.”
Sorensen notes that USearch was implemented in response to a recent survey that assessed the satisfaction of students, faculty and others with the library’s former services.
Liaison librarians, who interact with students and faculty directly, were also consulted, and USearch was launched after usability testing with students.
She noted that the U of S library’s move to USearch follows a trend among university libraries in Canada, which have been creating online search tools that search both online and physical resources at the same time.
Photo: Raisa Pezderic/The Sheaf