Dumping the OPAC #2 – Usage Data

File this under “things I wished I’d started doing a long time ago”, but we began collecting usage data from Summon a few months back, using a modified version of Matthew Reidsma’s Summon-Stats script. In that time, we’ve built up a log of just over 310,000 user transactions from Summon searches for around 160,000 distinct items[1].
It’s early days yet and we’d need to collate more data before we could launch this as a truly viable service, but we’ve got enough usage data to start driving “people who clicked on this item, also clicked on these…” style suggestions (based on the same methodology we’ve been using since late 2005 on our OPAC):
Although the suggestions seem to mostly be relevant and on-topic even at this this early stage, given more usage data, they’d become increasingly refined and improved.
I guess conceptually this is similar to the Ex Libris bX service, but it also exposes items that wouldn’t necessarily be tracked via link resolver logs (e.g. books, web sites, off-air TV recordings, items in the repository, etc).

[1] – that represents just 0.12% of the items in our Summon instance

Dumping the OPAC #1 – The Project Spec

To go into a little more detail about what we’re hoping to achieve, here’s the project spec. Primarily, we’ll be creating a new library portal (currently dubbed “MyLibrary”) that will provide a bespoke view of key library services and will include the following planned functionality:

  1. the ability to view items on loan and renew them, and see details of current holds/requests and their status
  2. allow users to place hold requests from within Summon
  3. within Summon search results, highlight which items the user has previous borrowed
  4. provide easy access to module reading lists
  5. provide the user with a history of items they’ve borrowed previously from the library
  6. links to the relevant LibGuides for the user
  7. a feed of new items (books, journals, journal articles, etc) tailored to the modules that the student is studying, based on analysis of circulation and e-resource activity
  8. offer an opt-in service that will track usage within Summon and the link resolver, so that the user can re-run previous searches and locate articles that they’ve viewed
  9. generate bespoke “you might be interested in…” suggestions based on the user’s recent borrowing
  10. extend the functionality of the reading list software to allow students to create their own lists of items found in Summon

The new library portal will replace the existing library page within Blackboard (which is currently a static page of links) and will integrate with the student portal to provide an overview of the user’s library account.
Development work started about 2 weeks ago and the aim is to launch the initial version of the portal (with the functionality marked in bold) by mid-June. The remaining functionality will be gradually iterated into the library portal during the 2013/14 academic year.

Operation Dump the OPAC

If you follow me on Twitter (@daveyp), you’ll probably know already that we’re about to take the plunge and retire our OPAC in favour of using Summon. There are a few drivers behind this, including:

  • the OPAC’s search facility is crude by modern standards and it’s difficult to refine a search
  • it looks like the OPAC can’t display RDA records correctly, but Summon can
  • we’re planning to replace the ILS/LMS within the next couple of years and, chances are, whatever we get to replace it won’t have an OPAC
  • getting rid of the OPAC means one less thing we have to show students how to use

This isn’t going to be a trivial project, as we need to integrate the missing circulation functionality (holds, renewals, etc) into Summon and our version of Horizon has no web services, but it’s definitely “doable”.
As I’ve blogged about previously, the Summon interface can be easily tweaked if you’re familiar with jQuery, so there’s a lot of potential for integrating the circulation functionality in a way that will appear seamless to the end users.
As the project progresses, I’ll blog and post snippets of code that might be useful for other libraries. In the meantime, you can see some screenshots of the work-in-progress on Flickr: