June 13, 2017
When you want information about the book you just heard about, what is the first thing you do? If you’re like most people, you start by searching the web. While we’d all love to believe that the first place our patrons check is the library website or catalog, that’s often not the case. Unfortunately, because of the way search engines work, books in the catalog are not going to show up in a web search. What can we do about this?
Transforming traditional catalog records from MARC format to linked data formats like BIBFRAME is one part of a library’s web visibility solution. However, converting your catalog records isn’t enough to truly make your library visible in search results. Because of the way search algorithms work, sites that are considered more credible typically float to the top of the results list. Even with linked data, library results could be buried many pages into a list of results if the library does not have a strong web presence.
There are some pretty simple things you can do to make search engines recognize your website (and catalog) as a credible resource.
My consortium, Houston Area Library Automated Network (HALAN), is a participant in SirsiDynix’s BLUECloud Visibility project and NoveList Select for Linked Data enrichment, which makes the member libraries’ catalog data available as part of the Library.Link network. (Linked data is based on your ILS provider. Non-SirsiDynix customers should contact their EBSCO sales representative and ask about Linked Library Service.)
As a consortium, we were faced with a challenge at the beginning because there was only one Library.Link domain for the entire consortium (http://halan.library.link/) rather than individual domains for each member library. Library patrons may not understand the concept of a consortium or even know that their library is part of a larger group of libraries, so landing on a consortium’s Library.Link page after clicking a search result may be confusing for them.
Using the same principles for becoming a credible resource led to the development of a library-centric design, which gave each library in the consortium its own Library.Link domain (e.g. link.houstonlibrary.org -- note the consistent use of houstonlibrary.org). This change was made in November 2016, and the effect on our visibility was drastic. For HALAN as a whole, the number of impressions (how many times a library.link page showed up on the results page) increased 12-fold between October and November and there was a 6-fold increase in the number of clicks. For Houston Public Library, the largest library in the consortium, we have seen a steady increase in the number of impressions and clicks since getting our own Library.Link domain: In November, we had 46,189 impressions and that number had increased to 120,946 by January 2017. Houston Public Library’s strong web presence (and the sheer size of the institution) has likely contributed to the steady increase of impressions and clicks, even as variations in Google’s indexing decisions create fluctuations for other HALAN sites.
As time goes by, the library information showing up in search results will only get better. More partnerships are being cultivated that will allow library information to show up on social networking sites, commercial sites, and more, hopefully putting the library at the forefront of our patrons’ (and potential patrons’) minds, rather than as an afterthought or by serendipitous discovery. We are also excited about the possibilities for using the enriched content from NoveList Select for Linked Data to create real-time lists and other robust content for our users. We are at the beginning of an exciting journey and I am eager to see where the linked data road takes us!
Somer Newland is the Systems Administrator at HALAN.