Database Trials Give Users Greater Access to Resources

By Kamal Kamalaldin

Kalamazoo College’s library subscribes to a myriad of databases such as JSTOR, PsycINFO, and ProQuest Research Library. Students, faculty, and staff have access to papers and journals that range all academic disciplines through these databases.

On top of its regular subscriptions, the library looks to bolster its database reach from time to time with database trials. These trials are offered by vendors for about a month, during which college-wide access to the respective database is allowed.

The library is always seeking feedback from students and faculty, and it uses this feedback to extend the offered databases accordingly. “For things we use as a trial, there are two voices we want to hear,” said Liz Smith, Reference and Instruction Librarian, “students and faculty.”

From faculty, the library wishes to receive feedback on whether the database contains information that their students will find helpful. As for students, the library looks for feedback on whether the students are finding what they need, and if the database’s structure and content are usable.

“Some [databases] are really hard to use, with the way they are organized,” said Smith, “and if students find something really difficult to use, we may not want to invest out money in it.”

While faculty feedback tends to be positive or informational, student feedback is mostly infrequent and negative, Smith mentioned. “I don’t think we get a lot of feedback from students, particularly on the database trails. We don’t always hear when people are happy; we always hear when people are sad. People email us when they think the library is noisy.”

Faculty offer more positive feedback and suggestions. Some faculty members suggest the trial of specific databases they believe will add value to the library’s index. Other faculty members point out that some databases on trial duplicate what the library already has access to, thereby helping the library reorient its budget to more effective uses.

Database trials will continue to be run for the coming years. The library runs 5-10 database trials a year. Trials are mostly implemented through the middle of the quarter, when students are apt to use them the most.

The library appreciates any feedback, especially from students and faculty via email or phone.

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