Discovery in a Health Sciences Library
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Michael Kronenfeld, University Librarian
Harold Bright, Electronic Resources Librarian
A.T. Still Memorial Library
A.T. Still University of the Health Sciences

A major challenge facing academic health sciences libraries is how to simplify our users’ ability to find and access quality, actionable information from our vast digital collections. For example, the A.T. Still Memorial Library provides access to over 150,000 ebooks, 20,000 digital journals, and 50 databases. How does a library user such as a student or faculty member quickly find the answer to a question in the myriad of online resources we subscribe to?

In our efforts to improve discoverability, we identified three components as essential to significantly improving our users’ ability to effectively and efficiently access and use our collections. These are:

  1. Ease of use – many of our users are of the Google generation and expect to be able to enter a single phrase to perform a search.
  2. Precision – a significant number of our users are looking for very specific information and need to perform searches on very precise topics.
  3. Increased discovery of our full collections – many of the search tools our patrons have been using, such as PubMed/Medline and Clinical Key, search only a portion of the evidence/information resources the library makes available. We wanted our discovery system to access and search as many of our library-based resources as possible in a single search.

We used these three concepts to guide the design of our discovery tool, Still OneSearch, and our redesigned website (

Many of our users are not skilled searchers of information — they are trained or are being trained to be skilled physicians, dentists, and health professionals in their respective fields. We needed to make discovery much more intuitive. Previously, library staff had to teach users to search individual databases such as PubMed, CINAHL, ClinicalKey, and EBSCO databases such as Academic Complete and SportsDISCUS. OneSearch now provides an interface to search all of these databases in one place.

However, an easy search tool that does not consistently produce highly relevant results is a disservice to our patrons; if it is easy, they will love it, but many will not be able to evaluate the quality of the results. For this reason we spent several months designing a portal that would give our searchers the high level of precision needed in order to perform complicated and very specific searches. Our search box includes discipline limiters, limiters for full text and ebooks only, and the traditional trifecta of keyword/author/title limiters to help our searchers pinpoint exactly what they are looking for at the initial search level. Our advanced search interface supports full Boolean, row-based searching.

Our new discovery tool is the foundation of our resource discovery system, which expands beyond the initial search. We have subsets of resources that do not work well in OneSearch like Natural Standard, Micromedex, and digital anatomy tools because they contain short paragraphs of full text or interactive subsets of data. These resources are included in our discovery system with a set of widgets embedded in the search results that extend the initial search to the resource’s native interface with the click of a button. We also identified specific user groups that needed access to specific resources outside our discovery tool, such as point of care for quick clinical queries and the ever popular MEDLINE interface, PubMed, on the main search page with tabs labeled “Clinical Search” and “PubMed.” Thus, while Still OneSearch is the core of our new discovery system, we have continued to develop additional access points for specific user groups and for types of information not easily found in OneSearch.

Here are the steps we used in developing our Discovery System:

  1. Reviewed our resources and our user groups, and developed an understanding of who needs to discover what.
  2. Developed a list of access points by topic and user group.
  3. Developed a core discovery tool.
  4. Built library’s discovery around tool by including additional access points.

For those interested in further exploring our new discovery system (, we can provide a trial username/password if you are willing to share your comments and suggestions. Email with your request and share your efforts to meet the challenge of improving access to our vast digital libraries.

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1 Comment

  1. Michel October 29, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Are the gentlemen willing to share their product?

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