For teachers, students, and librarians, the ability to locate accurate, relevant information about a particular topic quickly and easily is critical. This ability might be greatly enhanced by a new search engine from Sagebrush Corp., called Pinpoint, that combines the best of meta-searches and clustering to deliver search results from a district’s own library resources’as well as external subscription databases, web sites, and web search engines’in a single step, all grouped according to category.

For teachers, students, and librarians, the ability to locate accurate, relevant information about a particular topic quickly and easily is critical. This ability might be greatly enhanced by a new search engine from Sagebrush Corp., called Pinpoint, that combines the best of meta-searches and clustering to deliver search results from a district’s own library resources’as well as external subscription databases, web sites, and web search engines’in a single step, all grouped according to category.

“School districts are investing in high-quality resources”databases, cataloged web site collections, online references, magazines, and books’but unless students can access all of them without difficulty, those resources go to waste,” said Jim Zicarelli, chief executive officer of Sagebrush.

Pinpoint gathers, evaluates, ranks, and reports the most relevant results from these and other online sources. Because it’s web-based, students can access the results from anywhere, at any time. The software reportedly supports databases from bigchalk, EBSCO, Gale Group, Grolier Online, H.W. Wilson, NewsBank, and ProQuest, and it also can accommodate others upon request. It does not include the cost of these resources; schools would still have to subscribe to each one separately.

With Pinpoint, Sagebrush says, students can better manage information overload and more easily navigate through search results by selecting relevant content groups, because it clusters the results into sub-groups based on context. For example, if you typed in the search term “mercury,” it would group the results into topics such as Mercury the planet, Mercury the Greek god, mercury the element, Mercury Theater, Mercury the car, and so on, instead of returning an unordered hodgepodge of resources.

The software also reportedly can search for age-appropriate material. At the beginning of a search, a user self-selects whether it is a grade school, junior high, high school, or adult search. Over time, for each search term, the search engine analyzes what resources are most useful based on how often and by which age group they are accessed. “If it turns out most kids click on Grolier versus something else, the search engine learns from that,” said Bret A. Busse, technology and marketing director for iXMatch, the company behind the new search technology. “It learns the relationship between the user’s level, what’s being searched, and what’s being used.”
Pinpoint does not act as a content filter, but it does come with a standard list of useful web sites that schools can customize.

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