One-Stop Metasearch Tools: Friendly Time Saver or Confusing Quagmire


Note: This bibliography includes sources covering user and librarian aspects of library metasearch, cross-platform, one-stop, broadcast, and federated search tools plus library portals and intelligent agent software. It is surprising that there is a dearth of research and literature published on user satisfaction with library metasearch tools.

Definition of Metasearch Tool: A single access point and integrated search interface to at least two of the following: the library’s catalog, online databases, and digital collections. May support personalization.

Introduction to Cross-database searching

Arant, W., & Payne, L. (2001). The common user interface in academic libraries: Myth or reality?
Library Hi Tech, 19(1), 63-76. Retrieved July 7, 2003, from Emerald Fulltext database.

Addresses user expectations and needs for one-stop shopping interfaces. Proposes future components and features essential to make such systems successful: integrating metasearch, customized selection of resources, and cross-linking between resources.

Tennant, R. (2001). Cross-database search: One-stop shopping.
Library Journal (1976), 126(17), 29-30.

Brief, introductory article. Discusses the concept of integrating database search services to make research easier for users. Describes existing vendors, software, and services.


Park, S. (2000). Usability, user preferences, effectiveness, and user behaviors when searching individual and integrated full-text databases: Implications for digital libraries.
Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 51(5), 456-468.

Quantitative research study that compares user preferences in searching a metasearch interface and a common interface to separate databases (such as EBSCOhost). Users preferred the common interface because it gave them more control over the results.

Library Portals

Boss, R. W. (2002). How to plan and implement a library portal.
Library Technology Reports, 38(6), 1-54.

Concise, approachable overview of library portals. Outlines the power and limitations of the technology. Emphasizes user reactions. Chapter 2 clearly describes the components of library portals.

Goldner, M. (2003). Go portal.
Library Hi Tech News, 20(1). Retrieved June 1, 2003, from Emerald Fulltext database.

Explains the importance of portals for libraries and users. Users receive high-quality information from a single, customized interface.

Jackson, M. E. (2002). The advent of portals.
Library Journal (1976), 127(15), 36-39.

Authoritative article on user expectations for library portals. Discusses the development of portals that provide users with a single point of access to high-quality resources. Implications for library reference and information services of Internet search engines. Reasons users prefer commercial search engines over electronic sources provided by libraries.

Jackson, M. E., Preece, B. G., & Peters, T. A. (2002). Consortia and the Portal Challenge.
Journal of Academic Librarianship, 28(3), 160-162.

Explores the viability of consortial implementation of a portal to provide high quality content, enhanced services, and search tools for multiple libraries. Describes examples and outlines future steps.

Ketchell, D. S. (2000). Too many channels: Making sense out of portals and personalization.
Information Technology and Libraries, 19(4), 175-198.

Clarifies the interrelationships of (library) portals, channels, personalization, and metasearch features. Recommends high performing, single-search capability after careful usability studies with particular groups of users.

Lakos, A. (2000). Personalized library portals as an organizational culture change agent.
Information Technology and Libraries, 19(4), 169-175.

Excellent justification of why portals are essential in libraries. Definitions and background information. Analyzes the impact of portal technology on librarians: it will challenge librarians to change the way they work. Service and systems must be aligned and continuously improved for portals to be successful. Portals will improve learning outcomes, research effectiveness, and the academic experience.

Mischo, W. H. (2001). Library portals, simultaneous search, and full-text linking technologies: At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Science & Technology Libraries, 20(2/3), 133-147.

Effective analysis of the importance of combining portal technology and full-text linking from library subscriptions and digital collections to meet the needs of users who rarely use "MyLibrary" interfaces. Describes a portal prototype at Grainger Engineering Library

Murray, R. (2002). Putting portals into practice.
Library & Information Update, 1(8), 42-43.

Outlines the benefits of implementing a personalized portal for the library, either separate from or as a channel within the campus portal. Lists questions the Library must answer before embarking on the project.

Strauss, H. (2002). Library portals: A minority report.
NetConnect, 127(17), 34-37.

Presents the perspective that librarians must be leaders in the development of institution-wide Web, not library, portals. Explains tabs, channels, and cameos. Frames the portal phenomenon around user needs.

Tennant, R. (2003). Science portals.
Library Journal, 128(5), 34-35.

Discusses two science library portals, which were released in December 2002: National Science Digital Library (a central search service developed from harvesting metadata) and (a subject directory and cross-database search engine). Presents the features of these portals and the outlook for their sustainability.

Thomas, S. E. (2000). Abundance, attention, and access: Of portals and catalogs.
ARL Bimonthly Report, 212. Retrieved June 3, 2003, from

Frames the need for library portals such as the ARL Scholar’s Portal.

Wegener, D. R. (2002). Can we cook up a polytechnic portal from scratch? Can lah!
Computers in Libraries, 22(10), 22-27.

Describes a project to recreate the online presence of the Temasek Polytechnic Library in Singapore as a state-of-the-art digital library. Provides a homegrown, single-search facility that allows users to simultaneously search multiple resource databases, the digital media repository, and the library catalog. Clearly justifies portals from the user perspective.

Wetzel, K A., & Jackson, M. E. (2002). Portal functionality provided by ARL libraries: Results of an ARL survey.
ARL Bimonthly Report, 222. Retrieved June 6, 2003, from

Presents the results of a February 2002 survey of ARL libraries regarding their portals. 20% of respondents had a portal, about 62% were considering or implementing a portal, and 18% were not exploring portals. Quality of existing portals was higher than minimum, but less than desired. The single-search feature was only partially implemented and required refinement.

Zemon, M. (2001). The librarian’s role in portal development: Providing unique perspectives and skills.
College and Research Libraries, 62, 710-712.

Librarians contribute knowledge of content, copyright, customer service, and customized information delivery to portal development.

Intelligent Agents

Detlor, B., & Arsenault, C. (2002). Web information seeking and retrieval in digital library contexts: Towards an intelligent agent solution.
Online Information Review, 26(6), 404-412.

Describes how intelligent agents can track, analyze, and react to user searching behavior to improve efficiency, quality, and satisfaction with results. Recommends roles for librarians in developing agents.


Gerrity, B., Lyman, T., & Tallent, E. (2002). Blurring services and resources: Boston College's implementation of MetaLib and SFX.
Reference Services Review, 30(3), 229-241.

Describes one of the earliest and most successful implementations of MetaLib and SFX. Covers why Boston College engaged in the project, challenges they overcame, and future plans.

Lewis, N. (June/July 2002). Talking about a revolution? First impressions of Ex Libris's MetaLib.
Ariadne, 32.

Describes another early implementation of MetaLib (University of East Anglia). Describes the functionality and future of cross-database searching.

Sadeh, T., & Walker, J. (2003). Library portals: Toward the semantic Web.
New Library World, 104(1), 11-19.

Describes the future of library portals and agent technology using MetaLib as the example.

View other articles about MetaLib posted on the ExLibris corporate website:

NCSU MultiSearch

Newsletter announcement:

Frequently Asked Questions:


A thorough bibliography on one-stop searching and articles on the products/vendors themselves:

Dibble, M. (2003, January). One Stop Searching: Effects on Information Literacy, Research, and the Learning Process. Bibliography presented at the Reference and User Services Association, Machine-Assisted Reference Section, Products and Services Committee Discussion Forum at the midwinter meeting of the American Library Association, Philadelphia, PA. Retrieved June 1, 2003, from

Examples (Works in Progress)

ARL Scholar’s Portal Project:

Quint, B. E. (2002). Academic libraries develop integrated portal software package: ARL Scholar’s Portal Project will facilitate digital library service.
Information Today, 19(6), 22-23.

Describes the ARL Scholar’s Portal Project (in collaboration with Fretwell-Downing), which will enable academic libraries to provide users with a single point of Web access for information resources.

Los Alamos National Laboratory (Flashpoint):

Mahoney, D., & Di Giacomo, M. (Summer 2001). Flashpoint @ A Simple Smart Search Interface.
Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, 31.

Describes a project to provide what LANL users wanted: a single interface for searching the library bibliographic and full-text databases. The homegrown software (FlashPoint) was written in Perl and searches eight different web-based bibliographic databases in parallel.

Vendors & Products




Copernic Enterprise Search:


Horizon Information Portal:







GIS Information Systems:


Innovative Interfaces:

Milennium Access Plus:






The Library Corporation/CARL Corp. (TLC):



Chameleon iPortal:


Knowledge Prism:

Compiled by: Anne C. Moore, Head, Reference Services, UMass Amherst Libraries,, 413-545-0148