New search engine gives students upper hand in research

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Saint Louis University libraries have introduced a Google-like search engine, SLUth Search-Plus, that revolutionizes users’ search for information sources.

SLUth was unveiled in December of 2011, just six weeks after initiating discussion with providers of potential discovery services and assessing each option.

Implementation of the search engine was motivated by several factors, according to Georgia Baugh, Electronic Resources Reference Librarian. The libraries sought to satisfy students’ requests for a search system that covered many databases and other resources at one time. Students desire a program that helps them focus in on the most beneficial sources for their academic needs.

The SLUth program chose EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS) as its new search provider. EDS is also currently used by the University of Georgia Libraries and the George Washington University Libraries, among others.

Several other universities have implemented similar technology.  Baugh explains that two products similar to SLUth Search-Plus have gained popularity at other universities. SUMMON from Serials Solutions is used at University of Missouri—Columbia.  Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., uses another competing product, PRIMO from EX Libris.

The new search engine provides both electronic and print results. It scans the library’s online catalog of hard-copy books available in any of the library locations, as well as online sources. SLUth scans content from almost 20,000 publishers and electronic resource vendors.  Baugh said, it is helpful to have “more discoverable resources;” where one search can reveal relevant materials in many disciplines and in special collections.

These electronic sources include online journals, digital collections, and select databases available through SLU subscriptions. The online databases from which results are offered include Academic Search Complete, JSTOR, LexisNexis Academic, Web of Science, and more.

Baugh explains that, “In unfamiliar subject areas, they [students] will be able to discover the databases or other resources that they should focus on for a given topic.” In addition, Baugh believes searching across multiple databases simultaneously will save a great amount of time.

Students have already begun to discover the value of SLUth. Junior Rebecca Callahan said, “I used the database for a short paper I just wrote. I liked how it cut out an extra step for me because I could view online articles and already had a list of books to pick up in Pius Library. I’ll definitely be using it a lot from now on.”

Amidst the efficiency of SLUth – Search Plus, Baugh warns, it does not search all of the SLU Libraries’ databases. The program is still being experimented; the special collections resources, for example, are not yet complete.

Access to SLUth is available on the home page of the SLU libraries website. For more information or help using SLUth – Search Plus, contact your liaison librarian or use the Ask-A-Librarian service.