Discovery Layers in Law Libraries: A Progress Report

This past winter, the S.J. Quinney College of Law Library at the University of Utah transitioned to a new catalog and implemented a discovery layer as the public interface to the catalog. Discovery layers are meta-search tools that provide a single point of access to library resources, including print, electronic, and digital collections. Search results display items from multiple sources, aggregated in a single index. Items may be browsed via multiple access points called “facets”. Think of your experience when searching  When you do a search in “all departments” for “Harry Potter”,  you get items like the Harry Potter paperback box set, movies on DVD, or a Harry Potter wand with light and sound. Then you can limit your results by Books, Movies, or Toys.

At the AALL conference in Portland a few years ago, I attended a session on discovery layer options for law libraries. The presentation focused primarily on three systems: Encore (Innovative Interfaces), WorldCat Local (OCLC), and Primo (Ex Libris). At the University of Utah, we chose the Ex Libris suite of tools, and Primo as our discovery layer solution. Back then, there seemed to be few law libraries implementing this technology.  After experiencing the challenges of implementation, I was curious to know what other law libraries were doing.

In February, I distributed a very brief survey to the Technical Services (TS-SIS) and Online Bibliographic Services (OBS-SIS) Special Interest sections of AALL. I was surprised by the results. Fifty two percent of respondents said their libraries were either currently using discovery layers, or in the process of implementing them. By far, the most frequently implemented system was Encore. Most respondents did not know which legal databases were enabled for searching in their discovery layer systems, but for those who did know, HeinOnline was the most frequently enabled resource. Index to Legal Periodicals, LegalTrac, and LexisNexis Academic, among others, were also mentioned in the survey.

Complete survey results, including comments can be found here.

Valeri Craigle is access technologies librarian at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney Law Library in Salt Lake City.

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April 2011

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