EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS) vs. Serials Solutions Summon Faceoff

One of the most eagerly awaited sessions of the Charleston Conference was a faceoff between two prominent discovery systems: EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS) and Serials Solutions Summon.  It came about in response to a proposal from Serials Solutions Vice President Stan Sorenson following an exchange of Letters to the Editor of The Charleston Advisor (see my previous post for further details).

A large crowd gathers for the Faceoff

Faceoff Panel (L-R): Sam Brooks, Michaell Gorrell, Tim Bucknall (Modertor), Mike Buchsman, Jane Burke

The faceoff took the form of a series of questions from the Moderator, with each company given an equal amount of time to reply.  After the questions, live demonstrations of each system were conducted.

Here are the questions and answers:

Why do libraries need discovery tools and how does your product meet those needs?


  • Libraries must find ways to get more value from collections.
  • Collections are mostly digital now, and libraries want to rekindle their brand.
  • Discovery services have come into their own.
  • Summon is an essential element of libraries’ mission statements because it helps users find the full breadth of library’s collection and because a single search box critically important to users.
  • Libraries need discovery tools because users want a single search box for everything.  This is the only way to compete with Google.
  • A discovery service must leverage advantages offered by libraries
  • Catalogs have benefits but don’t have an ideal interface.
  • Federated searching is far too slow for today’s user and not uniformly indexed/ranked.
  • End users should not have to know database names or be required to sift thru long list of resources
  • Discovery services offer lots more opportunity to get a lot more out of indexes.

Why should a library choose your service rather than that of a competitor?


  • Depth of coverage is very important.  EDS has more sources.
  • The EDS service is very thorough.
    • It offers a seamless way to incorporate subject indexes through “platform blending”.
    • It can be incorporated with no downside and improves results and usage and record views go up dramatically.
    • Subject indexes can be incorporated even if they are not covered by EBSCOhost.
    • There are many unique features–widgets, search history, composite book records, etc.
    • Full text searching can be done from most journals and subject indexing, which leads to the best relevance ranking.


It meets user expectations:

  • The service is as easy and fast as Google.
  • It delivers all results in a single index.

It is comprehensive.

  • A single unified index takes advantage of the full breadth of a library’s collections.
  • In development, we knew that federated search was available but it doesn’t meet user needs.
  • It offers a unified index across all library collections and is content-neutral: there is no publisher bias.
  • It is Unicode compliant so it can handle sources from anywhere.
  • It has a recommender feature for users.
  • It was built from open source software and made to be scalable.

It has proven value.

  • Summon has been available for more than 2 years, with proven reliability.
  • It has scaled easily.
  • It is hassle free and easy to bring up in short time.
  • It proves its value in actual measurements and results in exponential increases in database usage.
  • It is customizable and configurable and can stand alone or put in library’s web presence in whatever way library wishes.  It can be the library’s digital “front door”.
  • Users don’t need to log in or authenticate until necessary.

Summary and rebuttal


  • The federated search portion of EDS is optional, as is extra time for setup, so EDS’s primary setup takes approximately the same amount of time as Summon’s.
  • End users are exposed to best sites, so the view of unauthenticated users is different from authenticated ones.
  • In response to criticism that EDS is publisher-biased, any system will be biased based on the metadata of its articles


  • It has the “finest subject indexing” from many publishers.
  • Many publishers gave given Summon the full text to use in its indexing.
  • Has match/merge capability which allows it to create the ultimate rich metadata record.  People now come to Summon to get metadata.
I just became aware of another viewpoint by Carl Grant, Chief Librarian of Ex Libris, questioning their exclusion from this faceoff, branding it as “silliness”, and suggesting some questions to ask of the participants.  Read it here on his blog.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor


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