A milestone in creating a UC campus configurable metasearch tool has been reached: an alpha, or very first testing stage, version of UC’s “Find It” metasearch tool was unveiled and reviewed by two groups of UC librarians on May 4 at the CDL. Since it is an alpha prototype, this version of metasearch does not yet include all the features that will eventually be in place for the campuses, and glitches are still being fixed. It is important for the metasearch team to receive input from actual users while the tool is still in its formative stages. An advisory group of campus librarians has also advised the metasearch team on the creation of this first prototype.
The first version of this tool is aimed at those seeking information in the Earth Sciences because the CDL received funding from the National Science Digital Library (NSDL). The goal was to create a tool that searches licensed databases, including journals and reference works such as online encyclopedias, as well as metadata harvested from NSDL describing useful scientific resources on the web. Other features include automatic main page updates via an RSS feed and the opportunity to browse earth sciences journals. NSDL’s funding has supported the development of this infrastructure. The alpha portal is branded with UCLA’s look and feel as an example, and to support usability testing at UCLA on May 23 and 24.
Based on the usability findings, as well as feedback from the advisory group and others, the prototype and the infrastructure upon which it is based will be further refined. The next prototype, created in partnership with UCLA, is on the subject of European Studies. The infrastructure will likely be further refined and made easier to deploy based on that experience. Plans are also underway for a version of the tool aimed at novice users beginning their research, dubbed “Smart Start.”
Based on our experience working with early adopters at selected campuses, we will plan a UC-wide deployment of these tools, including documentation and training. Campuses will be in charge of when and how to use these tools to create tailored search portals for their clientele.
Update (The metasearch infrastructure project is no longer active. See: http://www.cdlib.org/services/d2d/metasearch/index.html)