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Search & Discovery Education Working Group User Experience Panel

At the first in a series of panel discussions, the Search & Discovery Education Working Group invited Harvard graduate students to share their experiences with library resources.



On December 2,2015, staff members from across the Library attended "User Experiences with Harvard Discovery," a panel discussion hosted by the Search & Discovery Education Working Group. Moderated by Michael Leach, head of collection development in the Cabot Science Library, the event brought together three Harvard graduate students primarily engaged in historical research to discuss their experiences with HOLLIS+, resource discovery, and research practices.

Questions ranged from "where do you begin when you want to find something in the library?" and "do you still use HOLLIS Classic?" to "how has your searching changed since HOLLIS+ was launched a year ago?" The panelists' answers offered insights into how they use the library's discovery tools.

They agreed that HOLLIS+ is a valuable research tool, and with access to articles and dissertations via this resource, they spend less time in separate databases than they used to. When more data is available in catalog records (such as tables of contents and excerpts) they are able to better evaluate materials. The panelists shared that they also find HOLLIS Classic helpful for exact author searches and for government documents. 

When new to a topic, the panelists often page through all of the results to a keyword search rather than narrow them through filtering. They expressed frustration when library systems are not well-synced; for example, discovering that the Library has access to items that don’t display a “view online” link. Despite prominent on-screen reminders, two out of three didn’t know that signing into HOLLIS+ impacts search results.

The Search & Discovery Education Working Group hopes this will be the first in a series, with a different set of user perspectives represented on each panel. In the future, the working group hopes to hold moderated discussions with undergraduates, faculty, and other types of researchers. It reports to the Access and Discovery Standing Committee and is charged with promoting learning and discussion around important issues and emerging trends in search. Members of the Working Group include Amy Benson, Odile Harter, Ashley Sway, and Alison Thornton (chair).

To read more about past events hosted by the group and to read a full summary of this user experience panel, please visit:

 Please email Alison Thornton ( if interested in joining the working group.


Article written by Ashley Sway.

Article published on December 16, 2015