I was interested to see that Stanford University Library’s new website now has a Search Everything tabbed search box. Using the Search Everything feature you get search results drawn from several sources: Books & media (top 3 results), Databases (again top 3), Articles & e-resources (using their own xsearch and Google Scholar) and website results (top 5 results). All these results are shown together on a single page in two columns and they’ve made a really neat presentation job of showing those results.
Pulling in a Library website search has the added benefit of including information about relevant subject librarians on to appropriate search results pages. If you want to see further results links take you off to the other systems and it will be interesting to see what the user reaction is to the tool and the way results are presented.
It’s nice to see this approach being tried out and it parallels some of our thinking in trying to draw together results from several different library systems and showing them on the same results screen. How you display those results in a way that makes sense to users is a key thing. Stanford’s approach is to show a small number of results which in some ways is the opposite of the discovery system approach. I’ve certainly heard of comments from users that they can find discovery systems overwhelming in terms of how many results they see. And that seems to me to suggest that relevance ranking across our content may be a really critical factor here. Showing a small number of results is fine, if there’s a good chance that the results that users want, are going to be at the top of the list.