Library Discovery and the Open Access challenge

I noticed this interesting conversation on Twitter the other day.

As some pointed out that while 96% seems extreme, it is fairly well known that library discovery drives only a small percentage of traffic to publisher sites.

Understandably someone wondered whether it would be worth putting so much effort on library discovery (as conventionally defined).

I’m not so sure where the “96%” figure comes from, as the most recent article by Springer mentions “ Around half” come from Google, Google Scholar, Bing etc and “one fifth was from abstracting services, repositories, as well as library sources, including OPACS and discovery services

Still 20% seems a pretty sad figure for all library related services. Web scale discovery (the area that libraries control directly and expand the most effort to customize) is presumably even a much smaller share of the pie (5%?) and we have no reason to expect this will improve.

But all this relates mostly to paywall material (though Springer is also a fairly big Open access provider these days like most traditional publishers) and in any case a lost war. But if you think 20% is bad, worse could be in store.

The other part of the equation that will increasingly impact on library discovery, I see comes from the increasing amount of “Free” material. Leaving aside the sci-hub issue, this amount is increasing with estimates as high as 50% of journal literature published in 2011 found freely available just two years later in 2013. This is likely to rise and I commented.

In response Lisa lamented the cost of doing so.

The process involves many aspects but among many issues this isn’t a particularly easy thing for current Web scale discovery to support discovery and linking to Open Access articles, particular for Green OA and Open Access articles in hybrid Journals.

But as hard as it is to do, if we really want to stay in the discovery business we need to be able to efficiently and effectively cover the increasing pool of open access resources. Otherwise as someone cleverly tweeted ….

Some already think we are already there, as our Web scale discovery (or even A&Is) miss out so much free relevant sources.

Imagine a future where most academic libraries fail to manage to encompass the bulk of open access or free resources into their web scale discovery search.

All you can find when searching them is a increasingly shrinking pool of paywall resources (many of which you can find earlier and faster via postprints versions on Google).

Or worse users come to library web scale discovery expecting and wanting only to find non-free resources. Attempts by libraries to include freely available material are met with irritation because they feel it’s just a distraction and there is no need to show free resources they already saw elsewhere. Just focus on showing the non-free stuff will you!

That would be the final nail in the coffin wouldn’t it?

The role of the library has always been an evolving one, and here we have seen that even when search engines are the main discovery tool, the library can affect the likelihood of their users finding the content that they need. Whilst the library’s influence on discovery is less direct than prior to the prevalence of Google search, their influence certainly exists.

The above mentioned Springer article tries to be optimistic on the role libraries’ (or is it publishers?!) can play in discovery.

But I’m hard pressed to understand what it is driving at. The best I can make out is the idea roughly is while Web scale discovery is pretty much going to die out because it competes directly with Google for broad searches, there can be value in what? Making recommender systems? Putting in niche features like searching by ORCID, adding metadata?

With the exception of metadata adding, which of these is something Google can’t do better? Or is the hope here we do various niche stuff that the bigger boys will ignore as beneath their notice?

For superior metadata by publishers, do libraries even do that as opposed to publishers? Besides which publishers wouldn’t jump at giving it all to Google to get more traffic?

I admit I truly don’t get it.