Monday, October 23, 2006

Increasing the Use of Online Products

It was a challenge, but four speakers were able to tell their stories within 45 minutes at the program Increasing the Use of Online Products, an early program at Internet Librarian 2006.

The first speaker was Peter Simon from NewsBank Inc. In addition to introducing the other speakers, he directed our attention to a best practices page on the NewsBank web site. Most important in the points was having dedicated database introduction pages on a public library website. Having remote access also increases the use greatly.

Leslie Williams of Evanston Public Library in Illinois said increasing paid database use is a marketing problem. Many library users do not even know what a database is, much less think public libraries would have such research tools. Many consider libraries as repositories of books with service to children as their main mission. These people have to be enlightened. One method is to partner with other community organizations. Get the Chamber of commerce to provide a link on its website to your business databases. Likewise, get the local hospital to link to your medical databases on its pages for patients.

On the Evanston Public Library's website, databases are highlighted on its research resources page without ever using the word "databases," which Williams said is meaningless to most library users. Links are also present on the library's subject pages, such as the page for science research. Hennepin County Library also puts database links within subject guides. The nice thing about this library's subject guides is that the librarians responsible for pages are identified, as in this Literature subject guide.

Larry Mischo of Tacoma Public Library showed how his library has used the software Webfeet to categories and organize the databases. The web site has a rotating spotlight that features different databases in turn on the main page.

Jeff Wisniewski of the University of Pittsburgh showed how his library provides access to databases on a variety of web pages, including on an alphabetical list, in a federated search, and in subject guides. He agreed that words other than "database" should be found to use on public websites.


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