Federated searching sometimes sounds like the researcher's holy grail. But before getting TOO excited about the potential of federated searching, it's important to understand its limitations as well as its advantages. Webfeat, a provider of federated search technology, lists the five most common misconceptions about federated searching in this feature article from Information Today (Oct. 2003), "The Truth About Federated Searching."
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Information about our library collections is becoming increasingly fragmented. Most libraries have hard copy books and journals that are indexed in an online library catalog or OPAC. Web sources may be included in the OPAC, or in a separate database of web links. Other parts of the collection, such as MCLE video and audio tapes are often inventoried in another database or file. Then there are electronic subscriptions.
Even if electronic resources are included in the library catalog, this non-book information may not fit well into a MARC record. Trying to do so can be labor intensive, and not terribly satisfying.
What exactly IS a "federated search engine"? The March/April 2004 issue of Online includes an article, "Federated Search Engines" by Donna Fryer that defines federated search, distinguishes it from meta and enterprise searching, and explains how it all works.