Following the January 2010 announcement by Innovative Interfaces (www.iii.com) that its Encore discovery platform would be enhanced to include new article integration capabilities (http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/Digest/Encore-Discovery-Offers-New-Article-Integration-Capabilities-60723.asp), the company has launched Encore Synergy. This new enhanced version of Encore uses dynamic web services interoperability with content providers to layer access to articles into search results.
The search model implemented by Encore Synergy avoids both the massive pre-constructed indexes of content harvested from content providers and federated search technology. Innovative sees systemic flaws with these two approaches. The mass indexes rely on the cooperation of all the providers of electronic content, some of which have competitive issues that preclude participation. They may also lack the needed currency required, especially for databases of news content and other frequently updated resources. Traditional federated search has problems with performance and scalability.
Encore Synergy follows a search model that blends articles with the results from the local collection on the initial page of results and that guides users to more complete representations of the library's collection of articles as they navigate through results. When the user enters a query into Encore's distinctive single search box, it delivers a result list ranked by relevancy according to Innovative's proprietary Right Results algorithm. With Encore Synergy, a block of three or four citations selected from the libraries' article resources appear strategically positioned near the top of the results list. A linked label for the article block mentions the total number of articles associated with the query and links the user to the full article results. Innovative describes this search model as similar to the way that Google deals with news articles. For most topics, a sample of news stories appears on the initial search page that when clicked leads to the complete results from the specialized Google News search.
Encore Synergy does not interfile articles with results from the library's local collection, but aims to guide users to each category of content through an intuitive workflow. It uses its own ranking technology for content indexed directly in Encore and relies on the relevancy assigned by each resource provider.
Innovative describes the technology behind Encore Synergy as based on web services interoperability with content providers. The web services used provide an optimized content stream with resource providers that dynamically populate the interface with article-level results. Web services by definition involve requests and responses encoded in XML. Encore Synergy presents a request package formulated to specify results optimized for a faceted interface, allowing it to present qualifiers for scholarly materials, full-text availability, or other content characteristics.
Innovative's vice president of its Encore Division John McCollough stated the reasoning behind the design of Encore Synergy. "Innovative is integrating article content dynamically into the Library discovery experience, using web services in order to give us maximum control over how all aspects of discovery are experienced by the user. Rather than loading catalog records into a non-local ‘melting pot' index optimized for articles, we chose to integrate article discovery into Encore, our next-generation discovery product."
Encore Synergy relies on content providers to support the web services responses. An early partnership was forged with EBSCO to take advantage of its EBSCOhost Integration Toolkit to incorporate results from the EBSCOhost-based resources. Other partnerships developed to date encompass products from Gale, LexisNexis Academic, JSTOR, ARTstor, Encyclopedia Britannica, Elsevier, PubMed, ProQuest, and Wilson. Innovative expects this initial list of supported providers to expand.
Innovative has engaged a number of libraries as partners to test Encore Synergy and become early adopters, including Scottsdale Public Library and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Scottsdale Public Library expects to place Encore Synergy into production in early May 2010. Systems librarian Aimee Fifarek commented "I appreciate Encore Synergy because it is very easy to ignore if the user isn't specifically looking for articles. However, it is in the perfect place for article content to be stumbled upon for those not sure about what they might need."
Encore Synergy brings Innovative into the league of discovery interface providers that aim to address the strategic investments in article-level content. Competitors include Summon from Serials Solutions, EBSCO Discovery Service, and WorldCat Local. Ex Libris recently launched Primo Central that extends this discovery interface for optimized access to articles. Each of these products operates on the basis of a hosted, centrally maintained aggregated index of harvested resources from content providers. The approach followed by these products has been gaining momentum as a strategy for bringing article content into discovery products.
Innovative runs contrary to this current, choosing instead to focus its development on maximizing the way that content can be funneled dynamically from content providers. Encore Synergy adds to the dynamics of the competitive landscape of the discovery products not only in its functional capabilities, but also through its conceptual approach of pressing the model of dynamic content integration.