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The potential of metasearching as an “open” service

David Dorman (Manager Index Data, West Hartford, Connecticut, USA)

Library Hi Tech

ISSN: 0737-8831

Article publication date: 7 March 2008




This paper has two objectives: to illustrate to non‐technical librarians the elements that make up the process of metasearching and to discuss how the openness of each of those elements affects the quality and affordability of a metasearch service.


The search flow is broken down into its primary component parts‐user interface, interface software, metasearch middleware (search client and results processor), the various types of database connectors, database servers, metadata, and content. Diagrams and real world examples are used to illustrate the challenges faced by metasearch services and how those services could be improved by open source software, open standards and open access content.


This paper finds that the lack of Z39.50/SRU‐compliant database servers and rich metadata consistently encoded are the primary causes of the current functional problems of metasearch services; that wide use of open source metasearch software and widespread implementation of Z39.50/SRU‐compliant database servers would significantly lower the cost of metasearch services.

Practical implications

One practical implication of the findings of the paper is that widespread use of Z39.50/SRU by content providers is the best foundation on which to build improved metasearch services. Another is that libraries would save a great deal of money and be able to offer superior metasearch services if those services were based on open source software and provided access to open access content.


The value of this paper will be realized to the extent that it promotes awareness of the importance of open standards, open source software and open access content for the continued advancement of cost‐effective metasearch services.



Dorman, D. (2008), "The potential of metasearching as an “open” service", Library Hi Tech, Vol. 26 No. 1, pp. 58-67.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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