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Improvement to Library Search: Ungrouping Related Editions

October 6, 2019

Library Search Tips & Tricks

Library Search is built on OCLC’s WorldCat system, which is a massive database of library holdings (over 425 million items) from around the world. To address the huge number of items that can show up for a given search, a feature was implemented last year that groups all related editions and formats (print and electronic) together in one record. The intent was to make it easier to scan the list of results to find items of interest, without being inundated by numerous results for the same title. Unfortunately this feature has proven to cause frustration and confusion for many of our users. The most problematic issue encountered is that, when the “Group related editions” box is checked, and a title is searched for that the library does not own, that title often does not show up in the first 5-10+ items returned. 

After having this feature turned on for over a year and hearing consistent feedback about unexpected results showing up, we are disabling this feature effective October 7, 2019. This means that, by default, editions will all be listed separately in the list of results rather than being clustered together. Users can still opt in to grouping editions by checking the box in the upper left hand corner of the results page:

Benefits of Un-grouping Related Editions:

  • If we own a title being sought, it will be more readily apparent, without having to click on a link, what other editions the library owns. 
  • Titles the library does not own (books, videos, or articles) do not show up in the top results (and sometimes not even on the first page of results) when this option is selected. This is due to the fact that the results are set up to prioritize titles we do own. Grouping editions impacts the relevance algorithm. 
  • Not seeing the title being sought in the top list of results can create confusion and frustration, which can lead users to lose faith in the search system.

    Example: searching for the book, Fruit of the Drunken Tree (which the library does not own)When Group Related Editions is checked on: the top 4 results are book reviews/articles; the 5th result is an incorrect hit (a completely different work than the one being sought); the actual book doesn’t show up until #6, but it’s the large print edition.

    When Group Related Editions is unchecked: the first result is the actual book being sought; the entire first page of results are different editions of this title.

screenshot of Library Search with arrow pointing at "Group Related Editions" check box

Benefits of Grouping Related Editions

  • Users may be inundated by multiple editions/versions of the same title (for some this is a positive, but for others it may be undesirable). 
  • Search results are not as streamlined as when editions are grouped
  • When results are grouped, the newest edition is listed on top by default.

All of these benefits will still be available, but now it will be an opt-in feature rather than by default. 

For any questions or more assistance with Library Search, please Ask Us