Exploring Discovery

Exploring Discovery

About the Book

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Where to Buy?

Exploring Discovery: The Front Door to Your Library’s Licensed and Digitized Content was published in April 2016 and can be ordered from Amazon, ALA Editions, and Facet (Europe and the rest of the world).

Discovery, in the library context, connotes a process through which someone who is seeking information can explore a range of possible resources, identify the specific things to look at, and then get started with the actual work of learning or doing research. Discovery is not a destination; it is a process (much as in the older, more common, legal sense of the word). Discovery has come to mean so many things that it has come to mean just about any part of the library research process: searching, finding, identifying, exploring, using. We apply “discovery” to all kinds of resources; things we librarians have purchased and put on a shelf, things we have acquired licenses to access; things we only describe, but don’t have licenses to access or possession of the physical thing. The list is expansive and nearly all-encompassing.

However, there are underlying commonalities to the scope of “discovery.” Discovery tools are generally focused on retrieving all possible things that might be relevant to the user’s needs, casting a wide net across whatever domain of data is in scope. The set of results is generally subject to filtering after the initial search. While advanced, focused, field-based searching is possible (and frequently implemented), these tools are often meant to assuage the desires of those who are more comfortable in retrieval-based systems, in which the result lists are smaller, but more precisely and clearly related to the search query.

This book, Exploring Discovery: The Front Door to Your Library’s Licensed and Digitized Content, seeks to demystify the breadth and depth of discovery.

Introductory Video

Table of Contents

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Where to Buy?

Exploring Discovery: The Front Door to Your Library’s Licensed and Digitized Content has 19 chapters organized into four parts.


  1. Collaborative Growth Towards Discovery: Becoming Stronger Through Change
    By Margaret Heller and Hong Ma
  2. Approaching Discovery as Part of a Library Service Platform: Lessons Learned
    By Nathan Hosburgh
  3. When You Rent Your Front Door: A Mid-Size Library’s Experiences Relying on Discovery Vendors
    By Stephen Bollinger and Kate Silton
  4. Exploring Discovery @ Rosenberg Library: What Happens when a Library, a Museum, and an Archives Get Together to Share a Single Discovery Tool?
    By T. Louise M. Kidder


  1. Geospatial Resource Discovery
    By Darren Hardy, Jack Reed, and Bess Sadler
  2. Discovery on a Shoestring: Implementing a Full-Functioned Discovery Tool with Free Software and No-Extra-Charge Metadata Sources
    By Julia Bauder
  3. Agile Open-Source Discovery: Blacklight with EBSCO Discovery Service
    By Sam Popowich
  4. Using Blacklight for Archival Discovery
    By Adam Wead and Jennie Thomas
  5. Creating a “Magical” Request and Delivery Experience for Patrons using a Blacklight-Based Catalog
    By Matthew Connolly, Jennifer Colt, Joanne Leary, and Melissa Wallace


  1. The Bento Box Design Pattern
    By Jason Thomale, William Hicks, and Mark Phillips
  2. One-to-Many: Building a Single-Search Interface for Disparate Resources
    By Cole Hudson and Graham Hukill
  3. Integrating Discovery to Improve the User Experience
    By Sonya Betz and Ian Roberton
  4. Fixing Facets
    By Sean Hannan, Steven Heslip, and Kristen Johannes
  5. One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Tailoring Discovery through User Testing
    By Joseph Deodata, Khalilah Gambrell, and Eric Frierson


  1. From User Stories to Working Code: A Case Study from NYU’s Digital Collections Discovery Initiative
    By Daniel Lovins
  2. Regional Aggregation and Discovery of Digital Collections:The Mountain West Digital Library
    By Anna Neatrour, Rebekah Cummings, and Sandra McIntyre
  3. Open Access and Discovery Tools: How Do Primo Libraries Manage Green Open Access Collections?
    By François Renaville
  4. Discovery Platforms and the Database of Record
    By Alan Manifold
  5. Know Thy Metadata: Metadata Challenges in Discovery Services
    By Myung-Ja K. Han and William Fletcher Weathers


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Where to Buy?

"The fact that discovery is evaluated in small, medium, and large libraries is very helpful. The chapters are well organized, and the index is well developed and useful. Overall, this book would make an excellent addition to a library or librarian’s professional collection." Serials Review. (Online, 5 November 2018)

"Taken together, the volume effectively presents the complexity of providing adequate discovery tools for optimal utilization of the vast holdings of institutions in the current era." Against the Grain. (Vol. 29, No. 6).

"Overall this is a comprehensive source of information for any librarian working with discovery services. ... For those actively engaged in the field, it is a valuable resource." The Electronic Library. (Vol. 35, No. 6), pp. 1268-9.

"Exploring discovery is an excellent resource to find out what solutions libraries of dif- ferent kinds are using, and what are the challenges to expect when trying to improve a library discovery system." Alexandria: The Journal of National and International Library and Information Issues. (Vol. 27, No. 1), pp. 56-59.

"[A] useful resource for professionals in archives and academic, public, and special libraries who wish to receive a comprehensive overview of discovery services currently on the market." Journal of Web Librarianship. (Online, published 17 July 2017).

"... a useful book for those wishing to understand and research different discovery options." Library Resources & Technical Services (Vol. 61, No. 2), pp. 118-119.

"The book would be ideal to share with an implementation team, so the software developers can get up to speed on metadata issues, the content licensing experts can understand the user experience guru’s concerns, and so on around the conference table." Technical Services Quarterly (Vol. 34, No. 3), pp. 335-336.

"Although primarily focused on discovery in academic libraries, Exploring Discovery does offer any library considering how to best
implement a discovery service some useful examples of projects as well as some thoughtful examinations of issues surrounding discovery." Technicalities (Vol. 37, No. 3), pp. 23-24.

"... Exploring Discovery is an excellent tool to inform and guide you in making the best choice for your library, its resources and users." Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association (online only)

"...[A] rich resource that delivers sound guidance on key aspects to consider when selecting a new range of discovery service tools for your institution." Journal of Hospital Librarianship (Vol. 17, No. 1), pp. 88-89.

"This book would be a great resource to anyone who is in the weeds of evaluating and selecting a discovery solution for their library." Reference and User Services Quarterly (Vol. 56, No. 2), pp. 137-138.

"With his strong expertise, Varnum has been able to gather a wonderful collection of reports on institutional implementations, each offering philosophies, rationales, and details of successes and failures for these individual implementations." Journal of Electronic Resource Librarianship, December 2016 (Vol. 28, No. 3), p. 298.

"Informative, diverse, and valuable insights on how libraries are implementing and using discovery tools make this an essential read." Library Journal, September 2016, p. 103.

"Exploring Discovery is easy to dip into as needed, and provides a comprehensive examination of discovery services that will prove invaluable to IT, web development, electronic resource management, and technical services staff. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, Exploring Discovery is very highly recommended for community, corporate, governmental, and academic library 'Library Science' instructional reference collections and supplemental studies curriculum reading lists."  Library Bookwatch, June 2016.