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The Future of Finding: Resource Discovery @ The University of Oxford

Athenaeum21 is pleased to announce the public release of “Resource Discovery @ The University of Oxford”. The report is the culmination of a one-year multi-strand research project, and examines  how users of the museums and libraries at the University of Oxford find the information they need (known as “resource discovery”), current practices among other institutions, and trends and possibilities for resource discovery in the future.


Athenaeum21 led the end-user research and needs assessment portion of the project, and then led the synthesis and analysis  of the data across all of the research strands, making the recommendations and writing the final report. The report defines the resource discovery strategy for the University for the next 5 years.


"The report defines the resource discovery strategy for the University for the next 5 years."


For those outside of Oxford, we can share a bit of context: The University of Oxford has a lot of libraries. The Bodleian Libraries (known affectionately as "The Bodley") consists of a group of 30 of these libraries. The University Museums includes the Ashmolean Museum, the Museum of the History of Science, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, the Pitt Rivers Museum, and the Botanic Garden


The “Resource Discovery @ The University of Oxford” project looked across all of these organizations to understand how people with diverse research needs, across all disciplines of study, find things today, and to recommend ways of improving discovery services in the future. The process of discovery for many of these collections is still based on published (printed) books and typed lists of contents (called "handlists"). Because of the very long history of many of the collections (the University began in the 11th century, hundreds of years before the printing press), no one can be sure what percentage of the collections has electronic metadata to support digital searching, and what percentage does not, but the latter is significant.


The larger project team conducted 113 interviews, 18 site visits, and 3 literature reviews in order to discover requirements of users at Oxford and understand the broader landscape of resource discovery. Athenaeum21 analyzed all of this data and in the process, a significant and nuanced understanding of current and future trends in resource discovery emerged, which informed our recommendations to help the University move forward with its resource discovery strategy.


Athenaeum21's recommendations identified three main areas for the University's investment:


1. Mapping the Landscape of Things
It was clear from speaking with students and faculty across the University, that the depth and breadth of the collections could be overwhelming. These recommendations were about providing ways for people to find their way and navigate  through these collections.


2. Mapping the Landscape of People
Every end-user interviewed over the course of this project asked someone (a colleague, advisor, expert) for help in finding materials relevant to their work. Finding the right people to ask is an important part of the discovery process.


3. Supporting Researchers' Established Practices
Everyone uses Google, but not everyone starts their search there. Physicists may go straight to ArXiv, while in medicine the only search that matters to many is PubMed. The goal of good discovery service is not to change these behaviours, but to make sure that the metadata that will connect those users to the University's resources exists in the places that they are searching.




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