Customizing New Library Catalogue for Information Literacy, Digital Collections and Sustainable Development

Conference paper
Part of the Communications in Computer and Information Science book series (CCIS, volume 552)


Finding high quality information is an ever-growing challenge in the academic world. The Library of Lahti University of Applied Sciences is tackling this challenge with the new Masto-Finna discovery tool which provides a single search interface for public catalogue and digital collections. With Masto-Finna, students can search the library catalogue and digital collections at the same time, so the amount of time used for teaching technical searching skills can now be used to guide students in source criticism and reference skills. This way, information literacy teaching is hoped to result in students finding higher-quality source material. In the future, Masto-Finna is expected to further increase the usage of digital collections and thus assist in decreasing the carbon footprint by substituting the print collections with online information services.


Information literacy teaching VuFind Digital collections OPAC Masto-Finna search service User survey Sustainability 

1 Introduction

Traditionally, academic libraries have spent a lot of time teaching students how to use a library catalogue and versatile digital collections. This has been almost inevitable with so many search channels in use, which generally have different and rather unintuitive user interfaces. With the new generation web and the next generation of web users, the need for improving online services, especially catalogues, has surfaced. According to Fagan [1], these new library interfaces, sometimes called “next-generation library catalogues” are often separate from existing integrated library systems and aim to provide an improved user experience for library patrons by offering a more modern look and feel, new features, and the potential to retrieve results from other major library systems such as article databases.

1.1 About Finna Portal

Finnish National Library started developing the Finna search service as part of its National Digital Library project in 2012 [2]. Finna is based on open source software solutions VuFind and Solr and it enables a variety of customization options for organizations using the search service [3]. Finna aims to provide information on materials in all Finnish memory organizations in a meaningful, simple, yet informative and explorable way [4]. For libraries, Finna is a modern, single point of access to library collections, both printed and digital.

Finna portal consists of two separate services, a national view and an organizational view. The national view at gathers the collections of Finnish archives, libraries and museums to the same search interface using web-harvesting and indexing services. The organizational view provides the participating organizations with a tool to create a search service best suited for their organization. Finna’s web-harvested materials and multiple outlook tools are available for customizing. Its views are network services for the end users [5].

Finna’s member organizations can create their personalized version of the search service, which has their organization’s own look and feel and a selection of their preferred search tools. For example, administrators can decide on the appearance of the search results and ranking [4]. Because Finna is designed for various memory organizations with different kind of customers, customization plays an important part in making the user interface fit the user needs of every participating organization.

1.2 About VuFind and Solr

VuFind, which Finna is based on, is an open source discovery tool designed to sit on top of an integrated library system, replacing the public catalog interface. It also provides a single discovery interface for other digital resources such as a digital repository or a local database [6]. VuFind features faceted navigation, and control over basic and advanced search functions [7]. Because VuFind is open source, it is available for anyone to download, use, modify and distribute, in accordance with the GPL (General public licence) open source license [6]. VuFind is used in over a hundred libraries internationally [8].

VuFind’s most useful feature for its users is its narrowing facets, which can include things such as classification, subject, era, language and author [7]. When a search result is displayed, these facets are displayed as lists in the right column, with each item in the list displaying the number of search results associated with it [7].

Solr is an open source search platform, providing distributing indexing, replication and load-balanced querying and it is used to provide search and navigation features for many of the world’s largest internet sites [9].

2 Customization Process of the New Search Service Masto-Finna

In 2012, the Information and Library Services at Lahti University of Applied Sciences started developing their own, localized version of Finna, called Masto-Finna. It was released as a beta version at the beginning of 2013 and as a primary search service in December 2014. During the customization process, several changes were made to improve the customer experience and usability for the Lahti University of Applied Sciences customers.

In the first stage, the personnel used and evaluated Masto-Finna with the help of an evaluation table created by the Masto-Finna project group. As a result of that evaluation, many changes and improvements were made and several functions that were non-relevant to the library users were hidden from the interface. The facets selected for Masto-Finna include topic, format, author, language, publication year, content type and organization, thus leaving out, for example, the facets designed to narrow down results to museum artefacts [see also 10]. Relevance ranking was also customized for local purposes to better bring forth the newest material, especially in the collection search.

2.1 Developing the Search Service Together with Users

The users’ insight into the new information retrieval system was seen as crucial from the beginning, so the next stage of development involved the end-users of Masto-Finna. Beta testing was done by a selected group of clients in spring 2013 using both a questionnaire and open-ended questions. The testing group consisted of teachers, students and staff of Lahti University of Applied Sciences and a total of eight answers were collected. Based on the testing group’s experiences a number of improvements were made, for example page navigation, relevance sorting and quick guides were updated.

The next stage of user participation was a survey conducted by the Finnish National Library and it was executed in all live sites of Finna, both in the national view and in the organizational views. At the time as the survey, Masto-Finna was a beta site, but available to the customers.

Ninety-five responses were received, 71 % of them from students and 26 % from staff of Lahti University of Applied Sciences. The remaining three percent consisted of other users of the library. The respondents analyzed Masto-Finna’s usefulness, usability, effectiveness, time saving and user friendliness on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the least useful and 5 the most useful (Fig. 1). The results indicated that Masto-Finna is fairly successful in all qualities, with scores varied from 3.69 (effectiveness) to 4.19 (usefulness). Respondents were also asked to grade Masto-Finna on a scale of 1–10, with 1 being the lowest rating and 10 the highest, and the average was 7.9.
Fig. 1.

Assessment of Masto-Finna

Mostly Masto-Finna was used to find certain material (57 %) or to find information on a certain subject (21 %). When asked if respondents found what they were looking for using Masto-Finna, 77 % answered yes, eight percent answered no, and 15 % were not looking for anything specific. The respondents were most interested in resources available online for all types of materials. With book material, eBooks and printed books available for borrowing were almost as interesting. eBooks interested 86 % of respondents, and printed books 85 %. With journals and articles, the digital version was more appealing, with 90 % interested in digital and 52 % in borrowable, printed material. Ninety-six percent of respondents were interested in digital theses, while 33 % were interested in printed theses available for borrowing.

Masto-Finna users visited the site at least once a week (31 %), a few times a month (25 %), daily (11 %), monthly (10 %), or less than once a month (8 %). Sixteen percent of respondents were first time Masto-Finna users.

2.2 Impact of User Data on Development Process

Users’ input has been very important in developing the new library catalogue, and collecting user data from the start of the beta phase has speeded up the development process remarkably. According to the survey conducted at the end of the beta phase, Masto-Finna was seen as an effective tool for finding useful information, with a rather good overall grade at this early stage of implementation. It is also noteworthy that clients were most interested in materials available online, even though with books the printed materials were found to be nearly as interesting as eBooks. When it comes to journals, the digital versions were already far more appealing than the print journals. In the future it will be interesting to see how the survey results develop when customers become more acquainted with Masto-Finna.

According to Lapatto [11], mapping user experiences was seen as an important factor in the ongoing development of Finna’s organizational views. In Lapatto’s [11] thesis, a semi-structured interview and a benchmarking process were conducted based on three local views of Finna (Satakunta University of Applied Sciences, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and Lahti University of Applied Sciences). The aim of the data collection was to find out what kind of role usability has had when constructing Finna in these organizations. The results indicate that it pays off to tailor Finna’s local interface and a tailored interface is usable, easy to use and clear. However it was stated that the construction of an interface is a never-ending process and the designers should continue to utilize user experiences of the interface.

3 Masto-Finna’s Impacts on Information Literacy Teaching

Nevalainen’s [12] thesis explored the use of a next generation user interface as a tool for information seeking and guidance at Lahti University of Applied Sciences library services. The data was gathered by thematic interviews of information specialists working in Lahti University of Applied Sciences and analyzed by using qualitative methods.

In Nevalainen’s [12] study, the key factors identified in information literacy teaching and guidance were lifelong learning, source criticism, media literacy, integration of information literacy to subject studies, and the interactive nature of guidance. The goal is to provide students with information skills useful in working life and thus support lifelong learning and professional development.

According to Nevalainen’s thesis [12], important factors in information skills guidance were situational sensitivity, interaction and meeting the information needs of the student. The personal information needs of the students should be emphasized even more when planning both lectures and personal guidance. Information should also be divided into manageable pieces to avoid information overload.

Masto-Finna is changing the process of information retrieval from long, specific search phrases to more simple word searching, where the results are narrowed down later on using facets. Facets are seen as a very useful and well executed tool in Masto-Finna. Despite the facets, it is seen as important for students to understand search logic more comprehensively, including Boolean operators, truncation and phrase searching. When it comes to assessing the information found via Masto-Finna, the key question is whether or not the information found is relevant to the information seeker. Search portal users should be able to define their information need and be able to determine what kind of results are adequate to meet their needs [12].

In the future it is hoped that the focus of information skills teaching and guidance can be shifted from the technical searching skills and different user interfaces to information literacy skills, like identifying scientific sources and using more international source material. Information specialists interviewed also expected that with Masto-Finna, the references used in theses will become more varied, resulting even in higher quality thesis work [12].

The results of the study indicate that the new Masto-Finna doesn’t seem to lessen or eliminate the need for information seeking guidance. As high-quality information is available through one search in both printed and digital formats, the meaning of source criticism and ethical use of information increases. The significance of information literacy for lifelong learning and professional development is emphasized, and at its best it is thought to be interactive and connected to problem-based learning [12].

4 The Usage of Digital Collections

The default search in Masto-Finna is a dual search, bringing results from both local content and digital collections. The search results are shown in two columns, the local content on the left and digital material in the right column. This allows the user a quick glance of everything that is offered on the subject for they are searching. Narrowing down the result using facets can be done by selecting either local content or digital collections, after which the facets appear on the right hand side of the page.

So far with Finna interfaces in Finnish libraries of Applied Sciences, only Masto-Finna is using the dual search as a default, while the other libraries have selected the local content search as a default selection. For Masto-Finna, the main reason for using dual search is the promotion of digital resources and the aim to offer one interface for all library acquired material. However there are still problems concerning the dual search. Finna uses Primo Central Index for finding digital collections and very little Finnish language material has been indexed in it. Because of that, the searches made in Finnish yield irrelevant and unsatisfactory results, which is presumed to be the main reason why other Libraries of Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences have not included it in their default search.

This offers an interesting opportunity to compare how much the use of dual search affects the use of digital collections. Figure 2 summarizes the uses of different search types in three different University of Applied Sciences Libraries. Even though the organizational Finna view is being tested and developed in many University of Applied Sciences Libraries, the only three libraries currently using an implemented version of Finna services are Satakunta University of Applied Sciences (SAMK), Oulu University of Applied Sciences (OAMK) and Lahti University of Applied Sciences (MASTO). The information shown in the table is collected from Finna’s national statistics from January 1 to May 31, 2015.
Fig. 2.

Usage of organizational Finna’s search modes in three Universities of Applied Sciences

The default search selection seems to be the most used search type, for Masto-Finna it’s the dual search and for SAMK and OAMK it’s the basic search. It is notable that with dual search being the default selection, the other search types, like basic local content search and PCI (digital collection) search collect a bigger percentage compared to the situation where the basic local content search is the default. With Finna, the digital resources not indexed in PCI are found via the Metalib search.

With Masto-Finna, the total of 15 % of searches were made exclusively to digital collections and when adding the amount of dual searches, which also include digital collections, the percentage is as high as 78. With more searches made to digital collections, it could be presumed that digital collections are more known to library users. However it is too early to comment on the statistical effects of Masto-Finna on the user statistics of digital collections on the whole, because of the relatively short period of service time for the implementation version.

In the future, it will be interesting to see what kind of effect Masto-Finna has on digital collection user statistics. With PCI playing an important role in digital collection searching, it will be interesting to see whether the databases involved in PCI indexing will gain more users.

4.1 Environmental Aspects of Using Digital Material

Sustainability has become a major global issue, and library and information services can play a role in cutting their carbon footprint by substituting their print collections with online information services [13]. Sustainable development covers and integrates strategies for environmental protection as well as social equity and economic development. There are two dimensions included in the umbrella concept of sustainable information: information concerning sustainable development and development of sustainable information [14].

The prevailing practices for print and photocopy-based knowledge distribution, access and reuse produce significant carbon footprint. It is evident that within a digital environment with less physical production of knowledge products, there will be less paper, less ink, less production and transportation of physical knowledge products, and all of these will eventually result in a reduction of the carbon footprint. Digital knowledge products cost almost nothing to distribute, and they have a much smaller environmental footprint because they are read online, and digital versions will have more flexibility for real time transfer and access, value addition and use in a shared digital environment [15].

According to Chowdhury [15] it may be argued that if we move to digital content services and therefore produce a lesser number of printed products then there will be a smaller carbon footprint produced. Chowdhury [15] also states, that a digital content service will be environmentally beneficial compared to the current print-based model. However, this does not mean that the current print-based model should be completely replaced by the digital content service model; rather it should be complementary. A digital content model will be suitable to support knowledge-intensive activities like education and research [15], thus fitting the needs of Universities of Applied Sciences.

5 Discussion

Nowadays, Web search engines, like Google, are the first stop for almost everyone looking for information. When it comes to academic information retrieval, libraries should be able to offer flexible and easy-to-use information search portals to customers used to easy access to information. However, when searching information for academic work, usability and user-friendliness are good starting points, but the material found should also meet the standards of high quality information.

Traditionally, information literacy teaching has focused heavily on technical searching skills and different user interfaces, because that was essential for students so that they were able to locate relevant information sources. With more modern discovery tools like Masto-Finna, the focus can be shifted to source criticism and identifying scientific, high-quality information sources. In addition, with more intuitive user interfaces, information literacy teaching has the opportunity to acknowledge more profoundly the personal information needs of the students.

In the future, information literacy teaching will be redefined at the international level, when the new ACRL framework for information literacy for higher education [16] forms the basis for information literacy teaching. In the new framework, the creation of new knowledge and understanding of the often uncertain information ecosystem is becoming an integral part of information literacy teaching and guidance [16]. This way, knowledge construction processes such as reading and writing can be given more attention [see 17]. For Lahti University of Applied Sciences, the new single discovery interface Masto-Finna is a good tool for information literacy teaching and guidance, especially now when the often limited time resources of information literacy teaching should focus even more on understanding the information ecosystem rather than teaching separately how to use all the information channels library has to offer.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Open Access This chapter is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License, which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lahti University of Applied SciencesLahtiFinland

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