Brief recap of the situation with the Feds team and the implementation of federated searching
- the Feds were charged with implementing a pilot undergrad portal using a federated search
product AND with making recommendations for the future of federated searching at UIUC based on the
- CARLI acquired WF on behalf of the former ILCSO member libraries so it made sense for UIUC to
experiment with this product.
- The Feds worked with WF personnel for many months on customization of a WF system for UIUC
- In the end, WF was unable to give us what we needed to roll the WF system out for undergrad
users. The major problem is with the translators-the programs that communicate user searches
to the underlying native databases, bring back the hits, and display them for the user. Also
WF was not really adept at customizing the user interface screens for us.
- So a couple of months ago, we decided to experiment with Bill Mischo's existing federated
search system when Bill offered to make a customized version to meet our specific needs. This
system is called Search Assistant.
- We did some usability testing with a small group of undergrads on both the WF and SA
systems. SA came out a bit ahead of WF in terms of ease of use. Of equal
importance, we have much more confidence in Bill's translators that we do in WF's.
- We decided to do a soft rollout of SA on June 12, the beginning of summer session 2 with links
from the main library gateway and from the Undergrad web page. There will be no publicity and
no training offered for users. There will be three training sessions for staff, however,
during the weeks of May 29 and June 5-so that staff will be familiar with the system and be
prepared to help users who find it and have questions. Watch for a libnews note announcing SA
to the entire library and giving info about the date, time, and location of the training
- We'll see how things go with SA over the summer, perhaps Bill will do a little more work on it,
and we'll probably leave it out for fall semester and do some PR at the beginning of the
- We don't know what will happen after fall semester. The Feds will make their report to
CAPT in the early fall. CAPT will then presumably develop a longer range strategy for
federated search at UIUC based on our recommendations and their evaluation of other options that
may be available and the costs associated with each of the options. We don't know whether the
library will ultimately decide to transfer the pilot SA system to a production operation with IT
staff assigned to continue its development and provide ongoing support.