Boston College Libraries Faculty Newsletter



Discovery and Delivery: Introducing Primo

MarbleIn our last Newsletter, we talked about the historical role of the catalog and cataloging in the research process, with some hints as to changes to come. In this issue we talk about some of the new developments in store for the Boston College community, developments  that respond to the changing nature of research, expanding user expectations, increased electronic collections, and the Library’s goal of integrated and seamless access to the rich variety of resources and services available.


How do users access the Library collections? Library assessment studies indicate that most users begin their research with a search engine. We continue to improve our web presence, but we are aware that our website remains too dense and jargon laden, includes irritating hoops for the searcher to jump through, and presents resources in silos that in many cases are meaningful to librarians but not to users. Too often users come to the catalog and the Library web site for known-item searching, having already discovered what they are looking for somewhere else.  While users typically give libraries high ratings for accuracy and trustworthiness of information, they rate search engines higher in  terms of reliability, cost effectiveness, ease of use, convenience, and speed. (See OCLC report) We need to do better.


Users do not distinguish initially by format and prefer that content be delivered electronically (in fact, many assume that all content will be delivered electronically). We observe users making quick decisions with their search results and not taking advantage of the rich metadata discussed in the previous article. They do not dig deep into the catalog records, look only at the brief displays, and expect results to be organized by relevance. This translates into their possibly missing appropriate and valuable titles.  We realize that users want fast results and a seamless, transparent, and integrated discovery-to-delivery (D2D) process. Users want interoperability. Library systems must be easier to use so they will be thought of as a “one-stop shopping” in the discovery-to-delivery process. There need to be fewer steps and systems in searching library resources.  A cliché in the library field is that only librarians like to search; everyone else likes to find.


PrimoThe Boston College Libraries have a long-term interest in improving access for the searcher and addressing that demand for greater integration between the many products to which the Library subscribes. Work with federated-search (i.e. searching across databases simultaneously) technologies, context-sensitive linking (Find It), DigiTool, and relationships with content providers are motivated by this spirit. With support from ITS, the Libraries recently entered into agreement to collaborate on a product that could offer solutions to many of these vexing searching problems: Primo.

Primo will offer library users a single, unified solution for the discovery and delivery of all local and remote scholarly information resources - including books, journals, articles, images, sound, video and other digital content. Primo will provide users with up-to-date services and experiences in line with their expectation for quick and efficient discovery and delivery of what they need, where and when they need it. While separate Library systems will still exist, Primo provides a single point of entry that will represent results in a more useful context for the user.

Primo Screen ShotPrimo will include what are commonly referred to as Web 2.0 features, such as tagging, rating, and RSS feeds. Users will be able to get reviews and recommendations and refine searches via faceted browsing. Faceted browsing is very common in the commercial world and enables users to narrow their searches by many variables, some pre-set and some context-sensitive based on the results. See Amazon and Home Depot for good examples from the commercial sector and the new catalog from North Carolina State for an academic example. The facets available in these systems mine the metadata to create logical groupings of results for the user, such as sub-topic(s), format, genre, library location, time period, and language. Metalib Screen Shot(On a side note, these options will also be included in our soon to be released federated search service, CrossSearch.  Put generally, CrossSearch puts the choice of which databases to search simultaneously in the hands of the user. The approach combines searching and browsing).  Primo also incorporates a ranking scheme that orders search results according to relevancy and many ways to sort. Primo will include dictionaries and thesauri to provide search suggestions and structured lists as part of the searching process.

In continuing with the culture of experimentation the Library is now a member of the Primo Charter Members Program – a leading group of organizations with the opportunity to collaborate on the development of Primo. Primo Charter Members include the College Center for Library Automation (CCLA), a consortium of 27 community colleges in Florida; the Cleveland Museum of Art; Iowa State University; the University of Iowa; and the University of East Anglia.

The Charter Members are part of a larger group that includes development partners Vanderbilt University, the University of Minnesota, HBZ (the University Library Center of North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany) and a Danish consortium of research libraries under the aegis of Danmarks Elektroniske Fag- og Forskningsbibliotek (Denmark's Electronic Research Library that includes Det Kongelige Bibliotek (The Royal Library), Danmarks Tekniske Videncenter (The Technical Knowledge Centre of Denmark), Aalborg Universitet (Aalborg University), and Det Administrative Bibliotek (The Danish Administrative Library)).

You will hear more from us about this work. Please feel free to contact Ed Tallent if you have any questions.


Ed TallentEd Tallent
Head, Reference & Instruction

Questions, comments? Contact the BC Libraries Newsletter Review Board.
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