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Results: The “What do you call your databases Poll”

Well, we certainly got some interesting data from the over 230 participants in my “What do you call your databases?” poll. The poll is now closed but I’ll share the results here. The first charts below are for the entire sample. Note that this is a poll and is the participants are self-selected. Therefore it may not meet some academic survey standards. Please use or take these results in that context.

All Types of Libraries

Here the open-ended comments for all sectors (some humorous):

– Hope you publish the results.
– JK….
– Almost a year ago we re-organized our County’s shared digital resources into a single “digital branch”:
– The databases are used heavily, but are largely buried, with less emphasis on the idea of searching a database product. We have tried to favor federated searching, topic guides, and features highlighting the kinds of results that come from our databases without really stressing their identity as a database. If our patrons want to do research, they click Research – which leads them to topic guides and features that draw from the databases. Or they can use our III Research Pro to search groupings of subject databases, or just skip right to Encore to see the database results along side our Catalog results. The actual A-Z listings and listings by subject matter are buried and generally only used by librarians, most of whom have no intention of changing the way they search. 🙂 This has been a very successful change for us.
– This poll is making me think that we should rethink what we call our “databases”. The term works for us Librarians, but does it really work for our end-users. Now I am not so sure.
– Interested to see the results. We’ve wanted to move away from “databases” for a while now, because it doesn’t seem to be one of those terms users understand, but everything else we come up with usability tests worse.
– What to call databases is a constant discussion point for us. Finding a term that is both intuitive to our patrons and also accurate in description is an ongoing battle.
– For #1 I selected what *I* call the databases though I know coworkers use alternative terms as well. I also had to go back and change my answer about integrating free ones in our listings; turns out we even use the little open lock symbol to indicate open access resources/
– Glad you asked. I’ve never liked the term databases – it means nothing to our 9-12 students. They are subscriptions to pre-packaged and market specific information collections, hence my suggestion – infosub, which is flawed, but at least catchy. 🙂
– Recently changed how the resources were worded on our website as clients were confused
– I’m afraid you’ve asked the wrong questions here, or at least to the wrong audience. What matters is not what librarians call these things, but what the users expect them to be called. There’s probably a huge gulf between the two. I’d love to see a proper survey of library users that asked them (without giving multiple choice options) what they would call them. I have done a few very unscientific surveys of friends using examples they’re familiar with. “You know how you can search for stuff on Google, and Bing, and Yahoo … what do call that sort of thing?” My results so far: the overwhelming term of choice is “search engine”. So that’s what I use. Then I can easily introduce the concept of library databases in a way the students understand: “You all know about search engines. Well, through the library you can also access certain specialized search engines which are …”. Of course I have not yet convinced my own library of the brilliance of my thoughts on this topic, but I’m sure I will prevail in the end. 🙂
– Thanks for this. We are trying to come up with the right terminology as we know that Databases, catalogue etc. don’t resonate with students and many faculty!
– Working on an alpha list so will be by alpha and topic soon. I can’t wait to see the results!
– We have article databases, data-databases (numeric info), multi-format databases (such as OECD iLibrary), and links to publishers who provide book and/or journal content. We librarians are the ones who are concerned with format and provider – users just care that they get to useful, authoritative content that they need, no matter who provides it and in what format. Still, some users prefer to start with a particular source, so the alpha list helps them (and library staff).
– We look forward to hearing how others handle this.
– We call our collection of subscription databases our “Online reference shelf”
– We include our other e-resources in with the databases, like audiobooks, ebooks, etc.
– This does raise a few questions as to what we call these resources, and whether our users do understand our terminology!
– You asked, “Do you use a federated search tool”, but didn’t leave a spot to answer “no”, also a definition of what that is would have been helpful:) but I figured if I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t use one. LOL
– I’m also conflicted about the term “database.” On one hand, that’s what it is, and that’s what the vendors call it. On the other hand, we want to reduce jargon and make things as easy to use as possible. I would say, however, that we encounter jargon in just about any endeavor and a little bit never hurt anybody. “Database” isn’t exactly a foreign term and while it’s meaning could change depending on the context, I suspect that it’s easy for people to grasp what it means in a library setting.
– As a library statistics SDC, I am even more concerned about the lack of any national level reporting on the usage of these databases, for which libraries are paying really big bucks for statewide or regional licenses. The state library statistics gathered by IMLS simply indicate whether the state library agency pays for databases. It does not gather any info on the actual usage of those databases. The public library statistics indicate how many databases public libraries are paying for and gathers some info on how much they are paying for electronic resources, but again, it does not gather info on usage because it is so hard to get usage broken down by individual public library from the vendors. This is a gaping hole in our statistical picture of libraries today.
– We would be happy to have a catchier name than “Database”
– We’ve been concerned for years about users not understanding “database” which is why we changed most of our library home page to use active voice and to concentrate on what the user is likely looking for, i.e., articles that might be found via a database versus the database itself.
– Academic medical school that also serves nursing/PT students and patient families.
an excellent question! I’ve been trying to figure out what to call these things for as long as I’ve been the “E-Resource Librarian” (what the hell does that even mean?!
– We try to use the language that NoodleTools, our citing tool uses. Since we also teach citing, and citing the databases is sometimes difficult (and the citations in the db are sometimes wrong!), we try to be as consistent as possible. When citing in noodle tools, you choose first what type of source you are citing. “Online database” is an option, so we go with that. When it is time to put in the name of the database, they have almost every one listed, so we go with those titles. Sometimes even that is confusing. For instance, encyclopedia britannica skips the word encyclopedia in the banner of the website, even though that is the real title…Good me if you want to discuss this from this perspective.
– This is a million dollar questions. We struggle with the same thing every time we update the Research Database brochure or update our site for that section.
– We try to get away with the word “Databases” and be more descriptive by using longer title wherever we can, such as “Research, Explore & Get Homework Help: Use Library Online Resources”. But on the library homepage, when real estate is scarce and you can only fit one to two words in the button, we chose to stick with “Research Databases”.
– It will be very interesting to hear what our “users” prefer and perceive what these resources should be called to make it meaningful to them, and yet would include the array of things we put in there!!
– Official name – we do add a description in plain English. We realize that the general public doesn’t know or care about the vendor names.
– Also, if you can change the survey parameters to add 360 Search as an option under federated search tool, it would be a good idea. At this point, Summon is only used by a few libraries, mainly academic.
– Please share your results and opinions… our disparate naming (non)conventions really need to be overhauled
– Database is a lousy word choice. One compromise a librarian decided to use was “Find article databases” which I hate, but probably makes the most sense since that’s what the students ask- “where can I find an article?” and the link leads to a list of databases to choose from, and thus confuses the students even more. I’d prefer to use “Find articles” but then I still end up explaining that the student has to pick a database that will give them the articles they want. There doesn’t appear to be a win-win situation yet.
– I’ve been thinking of integrating free online databases in our lists, but I generally just integrate them in specific resource guides/pathfinders for particular project/topic areas. I’m not sure which is the best way to go given the fact that we have no proxy server & therefore need different username/password combinations for different databases.
– Thanks for getting me thinking about information organization.
– We are in the process of making our “Artices in a Database” page more user-friendly. Our current page is an alpha list of database names that mean nothing to the general public. We want to change this page, calling it something like “Research a Topic,” and organizing our databases by subject, with key web resources integrated. We plan to give each resource a name that makes sense to the general public, and give a (*brief!*) annotation/subtitle for each database.
– This is a timely poll. My team is about to change the way we communicate about “Resources” on our website. This includes renaming db’s to something more meaningful to the customer, and possibly adopting the term “eResources.” In this way, we hope to overcome the perception by teachers and students that online information does not always come from a website. We want to show them that many of the eResources are in fact, reference books. Thanks for asking these questions.
– It’s difficult to come up with a good name for an electronic resource that is understood by all. In our trainings, we usually try to explain — right at the start — what exactly we mean when we use the term “database.”
– I have toyed with these names for the list of databases:
PRISM (Pricey Reference Information Sources/Magazines)
FARM Facts And Research Materials “If we can’t find it here, we’ll look at the FARM” “Let’s go to the FARM and see what we can see.” (And now I see the PRISM FARM to better reflect the hard futile labor we put in)
More Ways to Frustrate Yourself — while at the computer trying to find stuff you really need
WORMS — World Of Reference MaterialS

So now I’ll provide some of the data and slides for various sectors:

Academic Libraries

Public Libraries

School Libraries

I hope you find these data useful for sparking some discussions about what to call your database links. This is a poll of librarians and what they are doing now. Some used research to choose their labels. Some asked end-users. Some just let the designer choose on their own. There is much history here.

In my opinion this is something that is quite malleable and changes by market. You can ask your users what they think but those answers are only a small part of the equation. Once users are trained they lose some of their natural choosing behaviours. It is always good to just watch new users and see what they do. In my experience many sites could make better choices about how they organize, sort, and name their databases.

Gale has a lot of experience in designing library websites and some of our strategies have generated very large increases in database use. Your account manager can connect you with some of our resources and experts.


Posted on: April 26, 2011, 8:58 am Category: Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Michael David Reansbury said

    This sort of discussion always makes me smile. For a profession that relies so heavily on controlled vocabulary to make it easier for patrons to find what they need regardless of what library catalogue they use one needs to stop and think: does all of this library specific branding for databases actually make thing easier for patron or just more confusing? If a child learns to call databases one things in their school, another at their local public library, yet another in highschool, yet another in post secondary and yet another in their professional life is not the library profession putting the patron at a disadvantage? Would it not be best to call a database a database, much like a spade is a spade, so that throughout a patrons life they always know what they are looking for no matter where they are? Goggle is always Google no matter what computer, smart phone, or game station you log into.

  2. I’ve been struggling with this terminology since CDs in 1997. We’ve found that even putting a “learning and research” tab on our website that then leads to alphabetical and subject listings of e-resources hasn’t helped.

    Our federated search product isn’t helping us, either

    Someday, somehow, the answer will come…