Binghamton University libraries offer new tool
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- Binghamton University, State University of New York, has launched a new online search tool that will help young researchers, especially visual learners, delve more deeply into the resources of the University Libraries.
Grokker, developed by Groxis Inc. and customized for use in Binghamton, offers users an easy way to see context, patterns and relationships among disparate pieces of information. Binghamton is the first university on the East Coast to offer the tool.
“Students are demanding the library present information in what we call an ‘Amazoogle’ style,” said John Meador, director of the University Libraries.
Grokker offers a combined, or “federated,” search of up to 18 different sources, including the Libraries’ catalog and Google. The emphasis is on resources most often used by freshmen and sophomores, the target audience for the tool, although librarians expect Grokker will also be helpful to more experienced researchers working outside their usual subject areas.
One important feature that separates Grokker from Google and other search tools is its “map view,” in which a broad topic is broken down into subcategories illustrated by circles. A search for “Shakespeare,” for instance, offers circles on categories such as biography, plays, poetry and the Royal Shakespeare Company.
“It’s been shown that 90 percent of people don’t go past the first three pages of search results, and this automatically gets you past that,” Meador said.
The Web-based tool is available to all Binghamton students, faculty and staff on campus as well as from other locations once they’ve logged in.
Grokker, which was introduced at Binghamton last month, draws its name from Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. In that 1960s novel, grok is a Martian word that means “to gain complete comprehension.”
Karmina Newell, marketing manager for Groxis, said the tool is also in use at Stanford University and in Sun Microsystems' corporate library. Binghamton is the first to incorporate availability information, she noted, so that researchers can see whether books that pop up in a search are on the shelf.
“This is a driver of innovation for libraries and corporations,” she said. “Grokker's bird's-eye view enables users to find connections amongst large information sets that aren't easily found in a list view. This makes Grokker a true discovery tool."
Meador sees Grokker as another element in the University Libraries’ ongoing effort to optimize traditional library services and develop a richer environment for scholarly work. Other changes have included extending the facilities’ hours, opening the Information Commons and offering other federated search tools.
“The information-seeking behavior of students has changed,” he said, and the Libraries are responding.