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As a product manager, I work with hundreds of libraries that have implemented the Summon service as their library’s digital front door. Libraries who have had our discovery service in place for a few years have noted the positive contribution the Summon service can make in promoting information literacy. Recently, we sponsored a series of webinars devoted to the topic so that libraries could share experiences and learn from each other. Some of the inspiration, initially, came from a quote in a research paper presented at the 33rd Annual IATUL Conference in June 2012.

Diane Cmor formerly of and Xin Li from Hong Kong Baptist University wrote that, “OneSearch [Summon] provides us a perfect opportunity to move our focus away from explanations and procedurals and allows us to focus our teaching on understanding and evaluating information.”  We wanted to learn, did other libraries find this to be true? If so, how were they executing on that vision?

We invited individuals from some of the most innovative academic libraries around the world including Bowling Green State University, Charles Darwin University, the University of Houston, the University of Huddersfield, Oregon State University, Royal Roads University and Sheffield Hallam University to share their research and experiences.

The result of our series was a wide-ranging look into how the Summon service supports librarians in connecting students to the information they seek and teaching them to critically evaluate their information sources. The following themes were echoed by the presenters:

  • The Summon service is not a replacement for library instruction or information literacy
  • Given the prevalent use of Google-like searches, information literacy is needed more than ever
  • True web-scale discovery gives instructional librarians a way to connect with students at a level that leads to further engagement, teaching and learning opportunities

As Barbara Coat of Charles Darwin University described in her session, the Summon service is embedded in library instruction and research guides for first year students and instruction librarians “do market Summon as Google for the library… only better.”  By delivering a user experience that allows students to approach the library as they would an open Web search engine, the Summon service provides a context that resonates immediately with students and opens the door for further teaching. 

This post is the first of a series where we delve into how the Summon service provides new opportunities for instruction librarians to connect with users. For now, I will leave you with this quote. Alan Carbery of the Waterford Institute of Technology (Information Literacy in an era of web-scale discovery) blogged that “Web-scale search products should give us the chance to rethink our concepts of information literacy teaching. If we’re lamenting the single search box because it means it’ll be harder for us to teach students complex search skills, then we’re missing the point. … We can’t ignore discovery services, and we can’t ignore the opportunities they afford us to rethink our own approaches to teaching information literacy.”

Our webinar presenters have done exactly that. We’re proud that the Summon service is playing a part in helping them achieve their goals and I look forward to sharing their insights and observations with you in the coming weeks.  (If you’re interested in hearing from the presenters themselves, all webinars in the series are available for on demand viewing.)

22 Jan 2013 | Posted by Eddie Neuwirth

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