Innovative Interfaces has launched Encore Synergy, a new extension to the Encore discovery platform that blends search results from article resources along with the items returned from the library's local catalog into the user experience. Encore Synergy, unlike the other discovery products that aim to deliver articles in search results, depends on real-time Web services connections with content providers rather than a pre-built consolidated index of harvested content. Innovative shares the concern for providing access to articles with the discovery interface but has developed an alternative model that it considers more effective than that followed by the other end-user discovery products.
Competition for Article Discovery
The competition has become intense in the discovery interfaces front, with increasing expectations to provide ever broader access to library collections. In the early phase of this genre, the emphasis focused on modernizing the user interface with features such as a single search box, relevancy ranked results, faceted navigation, word clouds, and improved visual designs with nicer appeal to library users.
In the last year, a main area of competition shifted to the scope of content addressed by each product. The first products in this wave include Summon, EBSCO Discovery Service, and Primo Central, each based on massive indexes of content, derived from the library's ILS and other local repositories, and massive amounts of article-level content. The basic idea involves creating arrangements with as many of the organizations that license content to libraries so that those resources will be represented in the index. This strategy results in an index that includes books, articles, and other types of content.
Innovative Interfaces shares the goal of a single search box that address all aspects of the library's collection, including locally held materials as well as articles from the its electronic subscriptions. Increasing investments in e-journals and databases demands that the primary search tool include access to articles. The company elected to expand its Encore discovery product to address article content using technologies that avoid the need to harvest content from each of the resource providers and build and maintain a central index. Given the extensive body of articles represented in library subscriptions, these pre-harvested indexes include hundreds of millions of articles and only a few million books and other materials. They are difficult to keep up-to-date, especially for newspaper content which adds new material daily. Ranking search results based on an index that combines articles and books can be especially challenging since the full text of articles may be indexed, with books represented by MARC records with more sparse content. One of the key technical challenges of this approach involves performing relevancy rankings in search results that give books adequately prominent weightings relative to the much larger number of articles that might match a user query. Given these difficulties, Innovative chose a completely different approach to expand Encore to include access to articles.
Consistent with the competition to expand the scope of discovery interfaces, many of the products initially optimized for local content have expanded their scope. Ex Libris, for example, created Primo initially as a discovery platform focused on indexing local content, with remote article content available in a less powerful way through an integrated federated search component. It recently launched Primo Central that extended the product for more immediate access to articles through a central index that the company will maintain.
Encore Synergy Integrates Articles into Discovery
Innovative has also added a new dimension to Encore, but following a much different technology structure. The company announced its technology to integrate articles into Encore in January of 2010, launched in April, branded as Encore Synergy. Early adopters of the product include the Scottsdale Public Library and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
Encore Synergy exposes users to the articles available that relate to a search by inserting a block of sample results from article resources within the initial page of results displayed in response to a query. This approach prompts users to explore article results of interest, without interfiling books and articles throughout the result list. A similar model, suggests Innovative, can be seen in the way that Google treats news stories in its search results. For many topics submitted to the general Google Web search, one or more news stories will be inserted near the top of the results page, under a linked heading “News results for …” that when clicked leads to what would be displayed if the query had been submitted to Google News.
Encore Synergy works the same with articles. Encore search results will include a block of two or three articles that when selected lead users to complete results from the selected article resources.
John McCullough, VP for the Encore Division at Innovative, expresses his view of the advantage of this search model: “Encore Synergy discovers local collections and article content from a single search box, but with modes optimized for catalog and collections data and for article data, seamlessly navigated by the user. It does not sacrifice features to a common denominator to get everything into a single index.”
Web Services Technology
The technology behind Encore Synergy relies on Web services requests and responses with selected providers of article content. Though Encore Synergy retrieves results in real time from multiple content providers, Innovative emphasizes that the technology used is not traditional federated search. Instead, it uses a set of Web services that issues a request package that return responses that deliver results in a way that supports the ability to support facets on qualifiers such as full-text content, peer-reviewed items. The initial block of articles presented in the initial result page and result sets, and facets are created through real-time interactions with the remote resource targets.
The results from the library's local collections continue to be indexed directly in Encore, and are ranked according to Innovative's proprietary Right Results relevancy algorithms. Relevancy of content retrieved from remote resources through Encore Synergy depends on the native ranks assigned by the content provider.
Innovative has developed partnerships with several content providers to implement the Web services interoperability that supports Encore Synergy. The company announced a partnership with EBSCO in January 2010 that involved both the integration of EBSCOhost resources through the Web services available in its EBSCOhost Integration Kit, but also the goal of establishing a mechanism whereby patrons can submit reading recommendations into NoveList directly from Encore. These resources would naturally only be available to libraries that subscribe to these EBSCO products. Other resources with which Innovative has developed interoperability with Encore Synergy include Gale, LexisNexis Academic, JSTOR, ARTstor, Encyclopedia Britannica, Elsevier, PubMed, ProQuest, and Wilson. Innovative expects this list to continually expand to allow increasingly comprehensive access of a library's article collections through Encore Synergy.
Innovative Interfaces initially released Encore in late 2006 as its offering in the emerging genre of discovery interfaces. By the end of 2009, Encore had been installed in over 260 libraries. The company has continued to expand Encore as a modern, services-oriented platform that not only forms the basis of a next-generation interface but also enables many other avenues of interoperability.
Encore has proven to itself as a popular product in the next-generation discovery interface product arena— especially among libraries using Millennium, though it has seen some sales to libraries using competing automation systems.
Encore Reporter, announced in July 2009 and delivered in January of this year, provides an example of how Encore functions not just as an end-user interface, but as a generalized services layer. It leverages the Encore technology platform to deliver use statistics and other data regarding the library's automation environment. Early adopters and development partners of this product include the eLGAR consortium in Auckland, New Zealand, Michigan State University, the San Diego County Library, the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, Tulsa City- County Library, and the Jefferson County Public Library in Colorado. The Encore Query API, announced in October 2008, provides a set of Web services that allow external applications and Web pages to interact with the Encore discovery functionality.
A separate division within Innovative Interfaces is dedicated to Encore, with its own website at encoreforlibraries.com. The company named John McCullough as its new Vice President of its Encore Division in January 2010. McCollough joined Innovative in 1998 and has served in a variety of positions including Product Manager for the Web OPAC and sales representative for the Western United States and Canada.