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.

Author: Barbara Fister

I'm an academic librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. Like all librarians at our small, liberal arts institution I am involved in reference, collection development, and shared management of the library. My area of specialization is instruction, with research interests also in media literacy, popular literacy, publishing, and assessment.

2 thoughts on “Revealing Our Resources”

  1. Would you really like to see outfits such as Elsevier, Thomson, Springer, T&F Informa plc, etc extract email addresses and send marketing material direct to those? I believe they have that capability.

  2. They already do – especially STM types, they’re going to spend the dollars on the end user because the end user has dollars to spend (quite often our tax dollars to spend). Here the recommendation (as I read it) is for outfits like EBSCO, InfoTrac, Lexis/Nexis, and Proquest to plonk down money telling average citizens that their local library may well have articles that aren’t accessible via Google.

    But their partners would probably throw a fit. The New York Times routinely runs full page ads telling college students to subscribe so they can get into the secret archives of the Times – without paying per article, what a concept! They don’t tell said college students “of course, your college has already paid for this – and more – many times over.” I suspect vendors are in a tricky spot because they serve two masters – they get money from us and to create the product pay publishers for content that the publisher is simultaneously trying to sell through other channels. The content providers will get shirty if their direct-sale revenue streams are hurt by libraries, who are merely another revenue stream. So if the library pays big bucks and nobody knows it’s availableit, it works out for everyone. Except our patrons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.