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Primo Upgrade From Ex Libris Builds on Customization Strengths
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Posted On June 21, 2012


After several months of testing with “early adopters,” Ex Libris Group released version 4 of its Primo Discovery and Delivery product. Primo currently operates at more than 1,000 sites worldwide. According to one expert, Primo has particular appeal to academic and research libraries in part due to the way its “toolkit” approach allows librarians to customize the service to their particular collections and clienteles. The new version expands on this with personalization options that filter and rank material down to the academic degrees and disciplines of users, as well as additional administrative tools for local librarians. The ScholarRank feature helps to identify key research and bring it to the top of search results. The Primo service not only provides discovery through Primo Central Index, a massive aggregation of “hundreds of millions” of scholarly items, but also integrates with a library’s services, such as requests, loans, and account updates.

Ex Libris Group, based in Israel, offers a range of library automation services. It introduced Primo in 2008 and Primo Central Index in 2010. Primo Central Index aggregates scholarly e-resources including journal articles, ebooks, reviews, legal documents and more, harvested from primary and secondary publishers and aggregators and from open-access repositories. It is hosted on Ex Libris servers. According to Marshall Breeding, consultant and former chief technology officer at the Vanderbilt University libraries, Primo itself had a “lot going for it even before Primo Central Index. The locally installed interface offers a lot more for librarians to implement to meet their specific needs. The library can integrate whatever content sources it pleases. So it’s a toolkit as well as an end product.”

The new ScholarRank technology in Primo 4 should significantly improve retrieval of key citations. Breeding considered the version 4 upgrade as “evolutionary, incremental, not radical.” He particularly appreciated the new ScholarRank feature and the improvement it offered to relevancy ranking. “Relevancy technology is more and more important as the indexes grow bigger and bigger. A lot of library discovery tools do not do a great job at bringing the most important references to the top. The ability to tune relevancy and align it with a profile of the user is really vital.”

Gilad Gal, Ex Libris’ director of product management for discovery and delivery solutions, indicated ScholarRank had been in development for “quite some time. Most customers in research libraries typically have a well-defined context for their searching. The personalization with academic disciplines and degrees can give context to discovery and relevance ranking appropriate to the individual user.”

Primo 4 also allows users to include and exclude multiple facets to filter search results. Before Primo 4, listings of facets appeared on the left of the screen, but users could only select one. Now they can select several. Ido Peled, Primo product manager in Ex Libris North America, explained, “It works something like Amazon’s options on the left, e.g., price ranges. In Primo a person could enter a search and then narrow it to specific authors, e.g., Shakespeare and Hemingway. The feature works like a Boolean OR.”

Users can also share Primo results using the Facebook social network with a Facebook “Like” button tied to individual results. The e-Shelf results storage has expanded to allow saving of an entire results page (default is 10 results) rather than just individual items.

Librarians managing Primo in a “multitenant” or consortium environment can customize Primo installation and configuration for each institution in the group, provided they have authorization from the consortium. The configuration options for individual member libraries include selecting settings for search options, result boosting, the user interface, the calculation of item availability, and delivery options. Primo also enables each member institution to integrate the discovery layer with its local systems and digital repositories.

The announcement of the new upgrade identified several of the new features as stemming from collaborations with users. Ex Libris used its Early Adopter and Quality Assurance outreach program to gather user evaluations and recommendations. Test users tried out the V.4 Upgrade Kit and reported back to Ex Libris on issues, problems, needed documentation, etc. Similar processes are in place for other Ex Libris products.

Measures for the size of Primo Central Index, such as number of publications covered or even number of publishers, were unavailable. This seemed odd since Ex Libris has taken a strong position on open platforms and particularly the NISO Open Discovery Initiative. [See Marshall Breeding’s Nov. 17, 2011 NewsBreak, “NISO Launches Open Discovery Initiative.”] However, Breeding indicated it was early days yet for the Initiative and the standard measures it would encourage. At this point, most of the players in the highly competitive discovery product arena, such as ProQuest/Serials Solutions’ Summon, EBSCO Discovery, OCLC WorldCat Local, play number games. Gal just described Primo Central Index as having “hundreds of millions” of items—one assumes articles or catalog/index entries.

Primo services can be embedded in commonly used applications such as course management systems and institutional portals and be accessed via mobile devices. The new upgrade goes to all Primo subscribers at no extra charge.


Barbara Quint is contributing editor for NewsBreaks, senior editor of Online Searcher, and a columnist for Information Today.

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