In case you don’t already know, Bill Drew has created a Library 2.0 group on Ning. If you don’t already know, Ning is kind of a meta-MySpace. Essentially, you can create your own network where you invite people to create MySpacey pages. It’s pretty fun, actually. Join in if you are interested in L2 stuff.
I have complained about federated search tools before. From my perspective, what libraries [and their customers] want is simple tool integration. You got (say) 10 tools and you want them all easily accessible from your website. Why not? You pay for them, why shouldn’t they be easily accessed?
Well, it came to me that the federated search could be even better. Why not behave like Google and offer the ability to choose and remove searches from your federated search? If you are a sociologist, are you apt to care a whole lot about what’s on Biological Abstracts?
Well, here is my idea — the wireframe is below. The customer gets to choose the searches he/she wants and can keep them for future reference. Of course, if the search suggests that another database might be appropriate, then the recommendation appears, but the customer is in control the whole time.
The main things that are different are this. 1) You can add and remove searches from the federated search. 2) You can edit or filter each search as desired. 3) The system presents results and then recommends other sources, but the latter does not get in the way of the former. Of course, you could probably also set up a few RSS feeds and other stuff to go along with this product. The details are pretty moot in my view. The point here is that federated search ought to be at the stage where it offers a level of customization.
There is an ability to edit the searches for increased or reduced results. Perhaps you can also just search certain formats (this is particularly relevant to public libraries, whose clients may just want “DVDs” or “CDs” when they search a fiction title). Other filters could be good too. For example, how about “just what is in a particular branch?”
If the customer wants a Google search to go with this, that ought to be possible too! The cool thing about this product would be that you could measure what people are choosing to add to their page. That would say lots about what to order for your collection (versus price, of course).
I really think this is feasible, partly because OpenID is beginning to rumble in the tech world. If there is an OpenID system for your databases, then accessing them ought to be much easier. This product might favor Open Source journals as well, since the free ones would be the easiest to hook up to such a system. But that’s a good thing. If the free stuff works for that project, why shouldn’t people approach that stuff first. If the paid-for stuff is so important, it should be worth the extra time to access it.
Anyway, this is just an idea right now. I don’t know what sort of patents, permissions, coding knowledge and etc. you would need to do this sort of thing, but I do content that this kind of search would do better than what federated search does now.