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Discovery Seminar – Li – Fall 2020

Course guide for students in Professor Li's Beauty of Algorithms Discovery Seminar.
  How do libraries work?


Are you familiar with metadata? Do you know how libraries organize their materials? Because libraries contain millions of items and billions of pieces of information, librarians needed to find a way to organize and search this information efficiently. Read a little about the history of MARC (MAchine-Readable Cataloging records) to understand how librarians make physical items searchable by computers.

  Search Algorithms


At Emory, our catalog of items is called discoverE. The catalog uses a set of algorithms (the exact algorithms are proprietary, so the only the vendor knows how different factors are weighted) to determine the relevance of each result, and ranks the results accordingly. Relevancy score is based on these factors:

  • How well the item matches the search term
    • Does the term you searched for appear in the title, author, or subject fields? Do words appear in the same order as your search term?
  • The item's academic significance
    • Did it appear in a peer-reviewed journal?
  • The item's relevance to the kind of search you made
    • If you searched for what seems to be an author name or specific title, the catalog will take into account more elements of citations.
    • If you searched for what seems to be a general topic, the catalog will prioritize informational and review resources.

Library Algorithms

Every library search algorithm works slightly differently, just like every search engine is slightly different. Read the article below to learn a little about basic search relevance factors.