Presentation Details

The Fourth International Conference on Knowledge, Culture and Change in Organisations

Federated Searching: Disparate and Distributed Databases, one Common Interface for Library Users

Anne Beaumont, Betsy Earl, Andrew Wenn.

There is an increasing recognition that the expectations of library users are not being met: they have difficulty finding the material they are after, the user interface is often too complicated and they are increasingly signaling that they want a single, easy-to-use interface that will allow them access to the plethora of databases both on and off the WWW – federated searching.

Whilst these requests may seem reasonable, many problems arise in practice. Firstly, there are many different data storage standards for library catalogues; much of the information on the WWW is not catalogued to any standard whatsoever. Secondly, libraries in Australia and elsewhere are often required to run on very tight budgets, thus they cannot afford the expensive off-the-shelf solutions that are available. Thirdly, many organizations lack the resources to enable their IT staff to be trained. Fourthly many of the data exchange and presentation formats are cutting-edge and thus neither firmly standardized nor well known in the ‘real world’. Fifthly, any solution must be cross-platform compatible, have the ability to operate with legacy databases as well as those available on the WWW and other storage media.

This paper discusses one possible solution to this complex situation. It examines the alternative software solutions, what has been done elsewhere in other organizations, and discusses why the State Library of Victoria chose the system it did. We then outline the practical day-to-day problems encountered in implementing the system and provide some advice for others who may wish to follow the same path.


Anne Beaumont  (Australia)

State Library of Victoria

Betsy Earl  (Australia)

State Library of Victoria

Andrew Wenn  (Australia)
School of Information Systems
Victoria University

Andrew Wenn is a lecturer in Information Systems at Victoria University. His main field of research is the sociotechnical nature of information systems. He has a number of publications in this area including a co-edited book 'Socio-Technical and Human Cognition Elements of Information Systems' published by Information Science Publishing (2003). Andrew is conference co-chair of ISOneWorld 2004, in Las Vegas which is organized by the Information Institute.

  • Cross-platform Searching
  • Libraries
  • SiteSearch Software
  • Open Source Software
  • Integrated Library Management Systems
  • Information Access
  • User Interface
  • Knowledge Management

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)