How Users Search Orbis

The most used online resource the Yale University Library offers is Orbis, the search and display interface for its catalog.  As the library develops a new discovery tool for the Orbis (and Morris) catalog, it’s an appropriate time to review how people search in Orbis.

In Orbis, users are presented with a Basic Search page by default, where they may enter a string of words and execute a Keyword search. They may elect to change Keyword to a specific field, such as Title, Journal Title or Author, In addition they may select a Quick Limit, so that the search only returns a specific format (e.g. books), or recent material (published after 2007).

Orbis Basic Search Page with Keyword Search


Research has shown that in general most users stick with a default search and do not often add limits or select a specific field to search. The data for Orbis searches confirm this finding. In searches run in March and April, 2015, users overwhelmingly (97%) ran basic searches with no limits or specific fields selected.

orbis yale data_17054_image001


Implications for Discovery

The search interface approach taken by most Web-scale discovery systems such as Quicksearch, is to present a simple search box with little to no advanced search functionality. The expectation is that the user will execute a simple, broad search. The search results will be presented with facets, which represent subsets of results. The hope is that the user will see facets and use them to more narrowly focus her search. In contrast, a traditional library catalog search presents the user with options to set limits before the search is executed. As seen in the Orbis use data, this traditional approach does not seem to resonate with many users. We know that the majority of our users, when presented with search options from a search page, will execute a basic search with no limits or specific fields selected. The question remains if users will find facets as presented in Quicksearch to be a useful way to manipulate search results.

How Search Activity Was Measured

These search statistics were gathered using Google Analytics. Every time someone goes to the Basic search page, a pageview is recorded. Another pageview is recorded when a search is executed, and again if the user clicks on the next page of results. One search can result in many pageviews. However, unique pageviews, the metric used here, are recorded only once during a search session.  Any executed search will contain some variation on the term searchArg in the URL. Here is an example from Basic Search:*&limitTo=none&recCount=50&searchType=1&

In the search above a search was executed for dog as a keyword (denoted by seachCode=GKEY). No limits were applied.

More complex searches can be run from Basic Search by selecting a field to search or applying one of the Quick Limits, such as

In this case the Title field was selected (searchCode=TALL) and a limit was set to look for publications from 2007 to the present (limitTo=Date). Search terms can be combined using Advanced Search. Advanced searches can be found in Google Analytics because they contain numbered search terms searchArg1, searchArg2 and searchArg3.


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