In a move that illustrates the growing library demand for federated search solutions, CSA (http://www.csa.com) has partnered with MuseGlobal (http://www.museglobal.com) to launch MultiSearch. The new federated search capability operates within the CSA Illumina framework and provides connectors for more than 2,000 target sources. Targets may be Web servers, Z39.50 servers, XML gateways, SQL, or other information sources. Federated searching solves the problems of multiple interfaces, many different search engines, multiple databases, and multiple search results. CSA MultiSearch provides a unified framework for accessing multiple resources.
CSA MultiSearch provides single sign-on for authenticated access to sources, hiding the complexity of searching multiple repositories. MultiSearch, which uses the CSA Illumina interface, offers a Google-like search box. A pull-down menu lets users select databases by subject. The service provides organized, integrated results. The merged results set presents the top citations from each database searched (the default is 10 from each, but this can be customized). Users can request additional results and can choose to “remove duplicates” and examine or hide the set of duplicates as desired. The service then provides full-text linking to results using any OpenURL resolver. MultiSearch provides direct links to the native source for further searching, viewing, and browsing.
“When we introduced the CSA Illumina platform, many librarians said that they wished that the interface was available for all their databases,” said Matt Dunie, president of CSA. “MultiSearch now makes this possible. Users can access MultiSearch, do a single search across a library’s database holdings, and get a unified set of results. All with minimal setup and maintenance required by the institution. Best of all, the service is literally set up and available in weeks instead of months.”
A CSA spokesperson said that the goal was to provide MultiSearch as an easy-to-implement ASP solution, without the heavy resource and staffing demands of a local installation. The service requires no server- or machine-based installation. The MultiSearch system resides on multiple CSA Illumina servers with mirror sites around the world. CSA says that MultiSearch offers simple and fast implementation of a low cost/low risk solution for federated searching.
However, the first announced North American customer for MultiSearch is actually an atypical one, according to a CSA representative. The University of Toronto Libraries has licensed MultiSearch for operation on a local server rather than as an ASP. Local installation provides more options for customization and integration, but it requires staff and the cost of local servers. MultiSearch provides the University of Toronto with flexibility at the institution level and can be implemented at a consortium level.
Peter (Marshall) Clinton, director of information technology services at the University of Toronto Libraries, tested MultiSearch on the CSA server but has licensed it for operation on a local U of T server for 50 targets. The server is being set up and configured now; Clinton expects it to be live by the end of July. Targets include Scopus, the library OPAC, the library Web site, and other sources to be determined. He said it would be most helpful for “non-mainstream” databases.
Clinton commented: “We see tremendous potential for MultiSearch. Federated search doesn’t solve all problems, but it’s very helpful for the end user.” Clinton feels the new federated searching model offers convenience and effectiveness but has some limitations. Some highly experienced searchers who know exactly what they need will still need “native searching.”
MultiSearch is priced annually by numbers of connectors. A minimum of 20 connectors is priced at $7,500; up to 50 connectors costs $15,000. But, according to the product manager for MultiSearch, Lesley D’Almeida, the company is offering charter year pricing (during the remainder of 2005) at a 15 percent savings, and the price is fixed for 3 years. So, up to 20 connectors will cost just $6,375 per year for 3 years; up to 50 will cost $12,750. All sources from CSA are considered to be just a single connector. According to the company, the authentication procedure for sources determines how sources are counted. CSA makes trial access to MultiSearch available to interested institutions.
D’Almeida said that about 10 libraries worldwide served as beta customers for MultiSearch and will continue to have access until the end of the year. In North America these libraries are Dalhausie University, Wellesley College, Oxidental College, and the University of Colorado–Boulder.
CSA specializes in publishing and distributing, in print and electronically, 100 bibliographic and full-text databases and journals in four primary editorial areas: natural sciences, social sciences, arts & humanities, and technology. A privately held company, CSA is headquartered in Bethesda, Md., with offices worldwide.
Founded in 1997, MuseGlobal is dedicated to organizing metasearch technology and creating software designed to seamlessly and tightly integrate into other environments. MuseGlobal’s markets are library system vendors and information providers. It works through a partner network. It provides the connectors between the CSA Illumina interface and the information sources to be searched for CSA. MuseGlobal offers 3,400 source packages, of which CSA has chosen the most appropriate for its customers.
MuseGlobal also partners with Ovid (SearchSolver), Brodart, Innovative Interfaces, Sirsi, Endeavor (ENCompass), and others. Competitors include MetaLib from Ex Libris, WebFeat, and ZPORTAL from Fretwell-Downing; in the broader non-library federated search space, there’s Documentum, Verity, and a few others.