Discovery: It’s More Than a Service; It’s a Way of Thinking

By Karen McKeown

Librarians learned long ago that the Field of Dreams adage “If you build it, they will come” does not apply to library resources.  Obtaining great resources is only the first step.  To be truly effective, library resources must be placed clearly and deliberately in the path of the intended users – and that means being where students, educators, and patrons go to find information.  To the user, what matters most is finding the right content at the right time with ease.

As we work to blaze new trails in the area of “discovery,” Gale is finding innovative ways to put information in the path of potential users – integrating it into the classroom, providing pathways to it on the open web, and expanding the reach of the library.  And we’re doing this with a very broad perspective – which means working with partners such as Google and Google Scholar; working with library services providers such as ProQuest, EBSCO and OCLC; and working with our own Cengage teams to enhance course materials and courseware such as MindTap™.

In the realm of discovery via library services, Gale does not sell a proprietary discovery service; instead, we optimize our content to be discoverable in all services.  We work toward a goal of making information easily discoverable, regardless of the library’s tool choice – now or down the road.

The Four Cs of Discovery

Within library services, Gale’s approach to enhancing discovery it simple, and we’ve come up with these Cs to distill what we mean. Here’s a quick summary:


We’re serious about delivering the best content to support education and research in all major areas of study. We’ve expanded the number of databases we make available to discovery services providers (DSPs) from five to over 40 in the past 24 months, and that means we’ve shared more than 1.1 billion documents with the various DSPs. This makes Gale among the top providers of indexed content in almost any discovery service.

And to help our customers remain well informed, we remain transparent by communicating what we have shared and the nature (full text or metadata only and whether direct linking is used) on a new website (www.gale.com/discovery) where we post the latest status and updates related to discovery of our content.


Gale is circumspect about adopting and applying industry standards. We look to NISO Open Data Initiatives for guidance about how to work with our partners and what they should provide us to help improve and manage discovery. We’re actively involved in steering the efforts of this committee by volunteering to serve as a member of the standing committee and working groups. Gale, along with Sage and IEEE, was one of the first content providers to publish the NISO ODI checklist, which makes clear how we exchange data with our partners and which products are included in discovery. We also adhere to and help guide the Knowledge Base and Related Tools (KBART) activities aimed at ensuring that data about our content is optimal for library technology systems.


Our customers and the NISO ODI guidelines tell us that it’s important to share the status of our work on discovery and to be open and transparent. So, we’ve created a website on which we share useful information about discovery, such as the status of our databases by Discovery Service Provider (DSP), our performance in adhering to the ODI Compliance checklist, administrator’s guides, and links to KBART-compliant title lists and MARC records.

Our DSP-specific guides walk customers through administrative settings that can dramatically change how content is found and dramatically shape the user experience. Because certain settings can significantly affect search results and usage, we strongly encourage customers to examine the default settings and use the step-by-step guide to customize settings and establish the desired experience and usage levels.

Collaboration & Continuous Improvement

As library technical teams know, discovery services are complex, and many factors must be addressed to ensure smooth operation. To simplify the process for libraries, we regularly work with our partners to assess how to improve the user experience. For example, in the last 12-18 months, we have worked with DSP partners to address issues that caused some 60% of all reported problems, most involving broken links and metadata error. As an outcome, we developed a way to improve the Open URL link by using “direct linking,” which allows for fail-safe matching of the link to the desired article in Gale.

To ensure the best possible experience, we think about the ecosystem of all services in the library that promote discovery – discovery services, link resolvers, library management systems and the knowledge base. This led us to making Knowledge Base and Related Titles (KBART) lists available. (KBART facilitates the exchange of metadata between content providers and knowledge base providers.) We have released the first phase of our KBART title lists and expect to have more enhancements this fall to cover a greater range of content and to add direct links into the title lists.

Besides working together with DSPs to improve the discovery experience, we also regularly meet and work with them to improve functionality, expand content, and address issues. Because much of this requires coordination of effort with the DSP we always urge customers to make priorities clear and issues known to both us and the DSP so that we’re sure to be on the same page with the customer’s needs. In some cases, this has led to re-indexing difficult content, as well as initiating projects such as KBART title lists and Direct Linking.

Next, in response to customer requests, we will continue to expand content – likely including more of our Gale Primary Source collections – and find ways to make it easier to keep e-book metadata updated by directly communicating about subscribed library content with the DSP on behalf of our mutual customer. We also hope to gain more consistent and useful insights into how our content is used in discovery services by obtaining improved analytics and reporting, which will help us meet our mutual customers’ needs even more.

Discover More Today

Join us in our quest to put relevant, excellent content in the path of your students, faculty, and patrons. Learn more about Gale’s Discovery Resources. Visit www.gale.com/discovery or contact your customer success manager at gale.customersuccess@cengage.com.

About the Author

Karen McKeown is the Director for Gale’s Product Discovery and Analytics team leading initiatives aimed at improving usage. She achieved her BS at Purdue University and her MBA at Rutgers University, and in her free time enjoys volunteering.

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