Trumping Google? Metasearching's Promise

Information services organizations (libraries) continue to be challenged by information seeking behaviors and expectations of web search engine users. In a recent Library Journal article, Judy Luther discusses issues related to metasearch engines. In the article she writes, "For many searchers, the quality of the results matter less than the process -- they just expect the process to be quick and easy." Anecdotally, I've found this to be true of users I've encountered within my organization. For more exhaustive and relevant searching, these searchers can turn to researchers for help -- that is, real subject matter experts who know the sources and how to search them.

Searching multiple databases is a special kind of problem because the databases don't always share the same controlled vocabularies or use the same protocols (e.g. Z39.50, XML). But there is great advantage to users viewing intermixed and deduped search results from multiple sources. The search engine DogPile or the SpotLight federated search engines of the California Digital Library are good examples that show how this works. At the SLA conference, federated search seemed to still be a buzzword among search vendors.

See also the related article on federated search by Roy Tenant.