EBSCO Publishing has improved the extensibility and interoperability of its EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS) through the release of a new Application Programming Interface, or API, compatible with current technology practices and with popular discovery interfaces such as VuFind. This move brings EDS, which already competed well on the power of its search technology and the breadth of its index, into an even stronger position relative to other discovery services, such as Summon and Primo Central, which have previously released APIs.
The genre of discovery services allows libraries to present their users with the ability to search all components of its collections, expanding the traditional scope of the online catalog to also include articles represented in its subscriptions to electronic resources and to other collection components. Each of the major products in this sphere, Summon from Serials Solutions, Primo Central from Ex Libris, WorldCat Local from OCLC, and EBSCO Discovery Service from EBSCO Publishing offers a service that delivers this expanded search capability through a Web-based interface. In addition to using discovery services as-is through the provider's user interfaces, libraries increasingly want to combine capabilities among other applications and interfaces. Some libraries may, for example, have a search environment already in place and want to preserve its user interface while extending its scope to article-level resources. Or they may want to add the capability to search library resources from other related resources, such as the campus learning management system.
In order to gain access to the search capabilities of a discovery service from outside the provider's interface, a set of APIs, need to be enabled, documented, and made available to libraries or other third parties. APIs allow programmers to write scripts or applications that take advantage of the capabilities of a product. APIs enable system-to-system communications for such purposes as exchanging data and expressing functionality. For discovery services, an API might enable an open source discovery interface, such as Blacklight or VuFind, to take advantage of the extensive index and search and retrieval capabilities of a discovery service.
EBSCO Publishing released the EDS API to provide access to the product's extensive content resources and and the underlying functionality. Some of the elements available through the API include access to the metadata within the EDS environment, delivery of result set data including relevancy rankings, access to facets represented in search results, presentation of book jacket images, and full-text linking capabilities, including those based on OpenURL and EBSCO's proprietary SmartLinks technology.
Through a technique EBSCO calls Platform Blending, libraries that also subscribe to EBSCOhost content products can tap into subject indexing and metadata that can be integrated into broader search operations. Platform Blending unifies results from subject indexes in EBSCOhost with the EDS Base Index. Platform Blending can also be also accomplished in search results delivered through the EDS API.
EBSCO states that the EDS API was created to follow the standards and conventions widely implemented in libraryoriented development projects. The APIs are delivered as Web services, both as REST (REpresentational State Transfer) transmitted over existing Web protocols and SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), a more complex messaging format. Service responses can be delivered through XML or JSON. The API has been developed with consideration for popular library interface environments, such as VuFind, and content management systems, such as Drupal. A sample VuFind deployment demonstration is available.
The key goal of the API involves delivering search results through third party interfaces as they would be through the native EBSCO Discovery Service, with the ability to make needed customizations or feature extensions.
Technical personnel, such as programmers or integrators, need detailed documentation of an API in order to take advantage of its capabilities. EBSCO provides complete documentation developers will need to create custom interfaces or to integrate with third-party applications. It makes available the XML Schema Definition employed by the EDS API, sample XSL transformation, sample code snippets, as well as the demonstration application for integration with VuFind.
EBSCO publishing offers resources that describe the capabilities of its APIs, provides access to technical documentation, including a Wiki available to EDS subscribers. See: http://www.ebscohost .com/discovery/api
Below are examples of libraries taking early advantage of the new EDS API.
- Universitätsbibliothek Freiburg in Germany (http://www.ub.unifreiburg.de) blends EDS results into local catalog results through an interface based on IPS (Information Portal Suite). IBS was originally created by IHS Technologies GmbH and has been adopted by HBZ as the basis of its DigiBIb library portal.
- Indiana University uses the EDS API to integrate search results into its OneSearch@IU discovery environment. Indiana University is also developing a new search interface based on Blacklight.
- EBSCO makes available its own implementation of a demonstration site that uses the VuFind discovery interface that illustrates parallel results out of a local library ILS and from EDS.
EBSCO has offered tools for its EBSCOhost platform through its EBSCO Integration Toolkit for expressing results from EBSCOhost databases through environments such as Microsoft SharePoint, IBM Web Sphere, and the Google Search Appliance. The APIs for EBSCO Discovery Service provide a more sophisticated and modern approach to interoperability.
EBSCO Publishing announced a partnership with Innovative Interfaces in August 2011 to develop integration between Innovative's Encore discovery platform and EBSCO Discovery Service that will be based on the EDS API. Summon from Serials Solutions has offered APIs and the ability to work with other interfaces from its original launch in March 2009. Some of the implementations using the Summon API include that of Villanova University that uses the VuFind interface to provide parallel results from Summon and the library's local Voyager-based ILS; the University of Michigan, The University of London Royal Holloway Library.
Ex Libris also offers APIs for its Primo and Primo Central discovery products. The University of Leipzig, for example, has created an environment that uses VuFind with the Primo Central from Ex Libris.
The competition among the major discovery services continues to be intense, with Summon, EBSCO Discovery Service, Primo Central, and WorldCat Local each being marketed aggressively. The availability of APIs to facilitate integration has become an important consideration. Not having an API could exclude a discovery service from some procurement opportunities. The release of an advanced API for EBSCO Discovery Service significantly strengthens the product's appeal for libraries with more complex environments that require integration among different content and discovery services.