Why are so many libraries choosing discovery layers? Isn’t my ILS enough?

A library ILS does many wonderful things from cataloging to invoicing and from organizing patron account information to managing holds. A library ILS was the mainstay for decades, radically transforming the physical card catalog and increasing access for patrons. As library services have rapidly expanded, library catalogs and websites have become much more complex.

Libraries are now circulating so much more than physical books. You might have a handful to dozens of vendors offering things like e-books, magazines, research databases, streaming video, and online classes. Your library might be checking out items like laptops, seeds, games, bike locks, and hot spots. On top of the circulating items, libraries typically offer dozens of events, clubs, and special programs each month. With libraries offering so much, our technologies have had to adapt in order to help patrons discover these resources.

How can Aspen help our patrons discover our databases?

We know that you library is so much more than books! You probably subscribe to at least half a dozen databases that have valuable information for your patrons to access. Aspen is flexible enough for each library to decide which databases your library would like to feature.

Aspen automatically is designed to have a Resources page that easily displays all of your electronic databases. Most libraries also take advantage of Aspen's Placards to highlight library resources based on keyword. For example, a library that subscribes to Mango Languages (or other language database) can set the keyword(s) "language", "French", "learn a language", "Spanish", etc. to display a Placard, or advertisement, at the top of the page to promote Mango Languages. These Placards can be created with whatever images and text a library wishes to create!

If you subscribe to EBSCO Discovery (EDS) or EBSCOhost, Aspen will automatically pull in results over to your system like any other e-content provider with an API. search results will show up in the “Explore More” section of the search results.

Another way to access additional resources from databases, archives, and genealogy records is through the various drop down options in the search bar.

How does Aspen highlight archives and other special collections?

Explore More

One way Aspen incorporates archives and other special collections is through the Explore More section of catalog results. This usually displays under the first few results in a query. In the search below, I searched for a historical figure in the town. The search brings up historical photos and other archive results. Explore More might also display lists, library events, and other external sites.

Website Indexing

To pull in external website items into Explore More and your search results, you can set up Website Indexing for various sites. Aspen will comb through the external website(s) and pull in results that match your search.

Website Builder

Our partners have created informative and beautiful web pages on local history as well as events in regard to their local history. You can see here that Uintah County Library has a menu in Aspen that links to external sites as well as internal Aspen sites they've created using Website Builder. Learn More about Web Builder.

How does Aspen integrate with our existing ILS and e-content providers?

Unlike traditional proprietary vendors, with open source, we are able to connect to a wide variety of resources to tailor your discovery layer to what fits your individual library's needs! We use APIs to connect to you ILS, so if you don't see it on the list, don't worry, we most likely are able to connect to it! Currently, we have partners on the following ILS:

  • CARL.X
  • Evergreen
  • Evolve
  • Horizon
  • Koha
  • Polaris
  • Sierra
  • Symphony

Similarly, we connect to a variety of e-content providers through APIs. Here are a few of the most popular ones our partners use:

  • Axis360
  • Cloud Library
  • Hoopla
  • Overdrive

Read more about Integrations here.

How does Aspen know how to sort results? Will our patrons and staff be able to find what they need?

One of the most important aspects of a library catalog is putting materials that patrons want in front of them faster. Aspen does this through things we've come to expect from online searching like suggested spelling and predictive text; and in ways we might not consider like it's code.

Relevancy in Aspen depends on boosting scores. There are many factors that are included in the relevancy of a particular title for a patrons search. It is based on a combination of settings and built in code that has been in development for over ten years. For example, boosting scores are based on parameters like the number of copies your library may have and the amount of circulation of an item. These scores help bring the most relevant items to the top of your search.

Click for an enlarged example of a search for "Patterson" on another discovery layer (left) versus Aspen Discovery (right) to see the difference first hand. In the catalog search on the left, James Patterson doesn't appear until the 3rd page of results. In Aspen, it shows the latest and most popular James Patterson titles right at the top.


Record Grouping

You'll also notice in the picture above that Aspen uses Record Group (or FRBR) to easily display all the available formats your library holds. This includes digital items and physical books. Patrons can easily see an available format of their title, preview a digital version, place a hold, read a summary of the item, and check out right from the listing. This means a patron could be accessing an item in just 2-3 clicks within one page! Learn More about Record Grouping here. 

How does Aspen connect to our library website?

Integrate With Your Library Website

Aspen Discovery can integrate into your library website by adding a search box. Here are a couple of examples of basic search boxes but they can be customized with a little bit of coding during implementation. We can provide you with the base code or work with your web development team. Others may choose to hyperlink the catalog with an icon.

Embed a Collection Spotlight

One way to highlight collections is to embed a Collection Spotlight on your library website. We currently offer 6 different types of Collection Spotlight layouts for you to choose from. The code for these are automatically generated for you to use in Aspen Administration so the work is already done for you! Utilizing these are a great way to market your resources on other parts of your library website- for example tying in a collection of items that might relate to an upcoming program.

Forgo a Seperate Website All Together

How many times has a patron confused your library website and your library catalog? Do you have to request changes to your library website from another department or are you able to do them yourselves? Many of our Aspen partners are choosing to build out the content previously on their website all into Aspen to streamline their processes. Using the Web Builder functionality, you can create endless pages for your users to navigate all in one place!

The best part of Aspen Discovery's Web Builder is that you don't need to know any coding to get a site up! Basic Pages is available in Aspen Administration to get you started. With a little bit of coding knowledge, you can also design more complex Custom Pages.

How does Aspen stay current to changing trends?

Aspen Discovery is undergoing constant development to meet and exceed the demands of library patrons and staff. Development is community-driven so it is based on actual library usability testing and real-world situations. Decisions are being made at the front-lines in order to best serve library users.

In order to gain this feedback, we talk to our partners- A LOT. From onboarding to implementation to training and beyond; we look for opportunities to connect to partners through Zoom, chatting on Slack, emailing, and over the ticketing system.

Our Aspen Team is made up of library lovers and former library staff. Community feedback combined with our own experiences in public service and customer support are used to drive development.

Currently, Aspen Discovery is on monthly update schedule. When we put out a release, we have a short, interactive session to go over major enhancements that effect patrons and staff. We hold these at our Aspen Gatherings. 

How Does Aspen Handle Upgrades?

We have a monthly release for Aspen. Since we host all libraries, we keep all the libraries on the same most current release.

The updates are done late at night and you may not even notice they have occurred (updates only take a couple of minutes)!

Here's our process for upgrades:
The first Thursday of the month we have our Aspen Gathering at 2 pm ET. We demo what's coming out in the next release plus talk about any topics that the community is interested in.

That evening, everyone with test servers or are in implementation get the first release of the code. This gives us and many other libraries about a week to test any new features in the release.

Then, all other libraries in production will receive the release the second Tuesday night of the month.

The easiest way to keep track of updates and other community going-ons is through our community calendar found below: 



Learn More About the Aspen Community here: https://help.aspendiscovery.org/community

Does Aspen work on all browsers?

Aspen works well on all modern browsers, including Chrome, Chromium, Chromium-based browsers, Firefox, Microsoft Edge and Safari.

Aspen is also fully mobile-responsive.

Aspen Weekly