Searching E-Books

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the MLA ABCs of E-books webcast just down the road (I-76, that is) in the Ocasek Medical Library at NEOUCOM. I particularly enjoy going over there for “networking” reasons. I worked at NEOUCOM for many years, so I get to see many acquaintances of old. I also was eager to see the Midwest Chapter’s own Michelle Kraft who was a video-taped presenter along with her colleague Marian Simonson. NEOUCOM was one of the nineteen broadcast sites sponsored by the Greater Midwest Region and there is no charge for individual librarians. Attendance is always good with a great mix of academic and hospital librarians. The GMR has been sponsoring viewing sites for quite a few years and I think this is one of their best funding efforts.

I was interested this particular webcast because we already have access to more than a few books in electronic form at MPOW. And here in Ohio we are fortunate to have access to a wide variety of e-books through OhioLINK’s Electronic Book Center (EBC). Recently, our reference team has been working on a project to transform our reference collection from print format to electronic access. Since the EBC includes a considerable number of reference works, we are no longer purchasing titles in print if they are included in the EBC. In our own reference collection efforts, we have been purchasing reference resources exclusively in electronic format if they are affordable. But our dilemma now is how to integrate these e-resources into the “traditional” reference process both at the reference desk and by the end-user using the resources off-campus.

So I was particularly interested in the discussion of federated search. This sounds like the solution to our problem of finding where information might be within the many reference sources we have available electronically from any number of different vendors. This is actually something that wasn’t all that easy in the print environment. Should one use a general encyclopedic resource or something very specialized? Which of these resources do we have? We have access to way too many electronic resources to use a simple A-Z listing. Our library catalog doesn’t have the depth of information to be much more helpful either.

When I returned to work after the webcast I mentioned this to our head of reference. He asked me to write a summary of the things that I had learned. And here is where I discovered that my handwritten notes were rather inadequate. Notably, I did not have the web URLs for most of the examples that had been discussed. But I was rescued by my faithful tweeting colleagues! All I had to do is consult the transcript of the webcast backchatter and there was all the information that I needed to look good for the boss. Thanks all!

I am particularly impressed by the Vivisimo based search at the University of Pittsburgh HSLS. This function searches the fulltext content of all the included e-resources. The Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library is also using Vivisimo for their SEARCH10 but it does not search inside the content of their e-books. The University of South Alabama Biomedical Library e-books search looks nice but it is not clear to me if the “chapter search” searches just the chapter titles or the chapter fulltext.

Have you seen any other examples of federated search used to search the fulltext content of a set of selected e-resources? If so, let me know (cleibfar at kent dot edu) and I’ll look good for the boss again!