Digital Collections Discovery

Concordia has a huge collection of books: over 1.5 million titles, but this collection is small in comparison to our digital collections. We subscribe to over 500 databases, giving access to over 100,000 journals, tens of millions of articles, reports, e-books, and more. Last year, digital resources were accessed via the Library almost 31.5 million times, an increase of 68% in five years. Most research in the 21st century is born digital and the Concordia Library spends 80% of its budget on acquiring access to this premium, high-quality research—the best of what the world knows. You cannot find this digital content in Google or on the shelf in the library.

Digital content has many advantages over print formats: you can access it from anywhere, on any device, you can CTRL+F to search it, save it on your computer, and multiple users can access it at any time. However, you can’t really touch it or browse it like you would browse for books in the library.

With the Digital Collections Discovery project, we wanted to inspire you with this digital content and help you stumble upon items that you maybe didn’t even know existed. The Digital Collections Discovery counter provides a visual and playful way to see this content. You can touch and interact with it. It’s meant to help you learn, get inspired, and get academic sources for your university work. It has journal articles dynamically generated from current events topics, exhibitions of articles, books and multimedia on thought-provoking topics, and new e-books added to the Library catalogue.

Inside the counter, the bibliographic data is displayed in the form of cards, much like the old library cards. These cards contain basic metadata about the digital resource such as the title, abstract, associated image and the URL pointing to the actual resource when possible. Resource cards need to be displayed within a context to make sense to the user. For example, an exhibition on Gaming Culture provides the appropriate context to display the library digital resources on that topic. In our discovery tool, browsing occurs within these context cards, creating the space for serendipitous discovery to occur.

So far, we have created three groups of contexts cards:

  1. New acquisitions: Newly acquired resources on different topics.

  2. Exhibitions: Librarian curated resources on thought-provoking themes.

  3. Current events: Journal articles and other sources of information related to what’s happening in the world right now.


In our opinion, one of the most innovative features of the Discovery Collection Discovery project is the automated news enhancer module used to populate the current events category. In the image (click to view larger), we can see the overall schema of our automated approach.The process starts by fetching the RSS feed from the CBC world news. A context card is created with the information received from the feed by mapping it to the corresponding card field. Then, news text is analyzed using IBM’s Watson Natural Language Understanding Language (Formerly Alquemy API) to identify the key concepts of the news.These concepts are then used as search terms in our journal databases to retrieve relevant electronic resources related to the news content.