Listening to Ruins, thinking about interfaces to reference resources, again, ridiculous.
Two things I'm thinking about them, one is that the design criteria for them need to be the same as the ones not just for other search interfaces, but for software in general, a big criterion here is: can the untrained user get satisfactory enough results using the product to be motivated to use the product to the point that they develop substantial skill with it, obviously leveraging preexisting skills and having sane default behaviors are big here. The other thing is: the crappiness of proprietary interfaces to proprietary dbs- it's tempting to either just throw up one's hands or to try designing nicer federated search to work around their fragmentation and lousy interfaces. I think this is a mistake, this needs to be addressed at the source as a political problem if it's going to be solved satisfactorily, libraries are these companies' primary source of revenue, they should therefore be facing a united front of customers with standards to shove down their throats, standard query syntax, standard apis, standard record structure, but above all, standards for licensing terms providing direct access to data.
As I say, I have nothing to do with any of this, ridiculous.