Daily Archives: June 24, 2006

Revealing Our Resources

Lesley Williams has a thoughtful piece in Library Journal about the need to make our electronic resources more visible. Though she’s coming from a public library perspective, we all run into situations where students (and faculty!) only learn about a database by accident or assume their choices are between what they can find on Google and what they can turn up in the stacks. In fact, she starts out with an anecdote about a graduate student working on her dissertation while away from her institution.

One day she came over to show me a wonderful new online tool she’d discovered that let her search through thousands of scholarly articles and print out the full text. She was referring to Google Scholar. “Isn’t this great?” she asked happily, as the titles of thousands of articles scrolled across her screen. I pointed out that almost none of the pages she’d retrieved actually provided the full text for free, that she couldn’t search by subject terms or in the article abstracts, and that she could search by author but not sort articles by author or date. She was undeterred: “But this covers so many sources! Where else could I find this much in one place?” she exclaimed. I showed her the hundreds of online sources available at the Yale library web site, including an African American newspapers database and historical databases for national newspapers. She had never seen or used any of these before.

Some of her suggestions ask us to think outside the library – vendors could advertise to end users, not just to libraries; libraries could promote what they offer through affiliated organizations. But however we approach it, she makes a strong case that we need to do more to get the word out.