Monday, August 19, 2013

Meet Summon, our new catalog: The basics

Hello, there! I’ve come out of my long summer hibernation because there’s a big New Thing you need to know about.

This New Thing has been a long time in coming for a lot of reasons, including, well, it’s just been a complicated process getting all the parts working together.

If you go to, you’ll see it right away. No, not the new look -- I like it, myself, but as far as you’re concerned, it’s mostly cosmetic. I’m talking about Summon. It’s our new catalog, sort of.  You’ll see it named above the search box.  Below the search box, you’ll see a few options for focusing your searches, and a link to our good ol’ Classic Catalog too.

Here’s the thing about Summon: It’s big. It includes not only the usual books, DVDs, e-books, and streaming videos that we and other libraries in the Consortium offer, but also journal articles that you’d usually have to go to a database (like ProQuest, EBSCO Academic Search Complete, and PsycARTICLES) to find.

Summon is a unified search interface for most of our e-resources in addition to our usual stuff. So naturally, it runs a little differently. I thought it’d be a good idea to do a quick run-through of the basics. We’ll start with how results for books appear in Summon, then talk a little bit about journal articles.

Suppose we need to find resources on bilingual families, leaving all the default options as they are -- those are the checkboxes you see underneath the search box on our home page, some of which are already checked, and others that are blank. Here’s what comes up:

I hope you noticed that the search brought up over 60,000 results! But fear not. On the left-hand side, you can see the usual options for narrowing your search: more-specific choices for what you want to appear on the list, which institution you’re interested in (I decided not to limit it to Gallaudet’s stuff), the types of content, and so on. There are a few more options below where I cut off the screenshot, like subject terms and publication dates, but you get the idea.

The really important part is that you can see right away exactly where to find specific items: not just which institution owns each item, but also whether it’s available, what the call number is, and which library -- or part of a library -- has it. Here’s a more complete example: 

So right away, you can see that our copy is available, the call number is 404.2 G76b, 2010, and you can find it in the General Stacks, downstairs. Pretty sweet! There’s also an e-book in the list, complete with a link -- in light-blue text above -- that I clicked so you can see that it’s working. We’ll cover e-books in more detail in a later post.

In some ways, Summon’s not as complicated as it looks, because it uses a neat trick: the Classic Catalog! Yep, the old bare-bones workhorse, which you may have thought died years ago, is still around, and both the title link above and the links to all the locations below it will take you to Classic Catalog records.

Journal articles
Journal articles work a little differently. Limiting the ‘bilingual families’ search to “ … articles from scholarly publications, including peer-review’ by clicking the relevant checkbox on the left side of the following picture yields this: 


You can see the full article citation for “Learning from bilingual family literacies” -- journal name (Language Arts), publication date (09/2012), volume and issue information (Volume 90, Issue 1), and even page numbers. Before we get to the “Full Text Online” link at the bottom, which I’m sure you’re slavering over, here’s a neat feature: 


Hovering your mouse pointer over the title link will bring up a preview! This will often include an abstract, so, in this case, there’s no need to get over to the article itself to find out what it’s about.

But suppose the abstract reveals that the article is probably something you want to look at in more depth. Clicking on the “Full Text Online” link for this particular article gets this: 


In the immortal words of Emeril LaGasse: BAM. If you’ve never heard of him, look him up in Summon!

It should be noted that if you already have the full citation of the article you want to find, our article finder will probably be a better bet. Summon and the article finder (known officially as 360 Link) are sibling products from the same company. The key difference is that, as far as finding specific articles are concerned, Summon is a searchlight, while 360 Link is a laser.

Concluding thoughts
This is the part of the post where I offer the customary caution. First, Summon doesn’t provide access to all of our e-resources. Also, the Summon catalog is still very much in beta, which means we’re still working out all the bugs -- for instance, it’s not always very clear whether or not you have access to a given full-text article or e-book -- so search with patience and care. One strategy you could use is start off with Summon, gather a few titles, then switch to Classic -- -- for a clearer picture of what’s available. This works best with finding books, e-books, and films.

Another strategy, of course, is using the big, giant, red Chat With Us! button at the top of the Summon search page during regular business hours. It’ll pop up a window that looks like this: 

Which, I hope, is self-explanatory.

Above all, always remember to:
  • Be patient
  • Get in touch with us before throwing your computer out the window

Good luck, and happy searching!

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