With the popularity of the internet many people want answers instantaneously, without having to wade through books or even leave their homes. Libraries compete to stay relevant in this new world in many ways. They incorporate a wide range of tools on their websites to help them provide customer service beyond their physical locations, and to provide guidance and a gateway to the growing world of electronic resources. Through a combination of subscription databases and pathways, library websites attempt to tame the internet to facilitate their users finding accurate information.
Large public libraries allocate substantial proportions of their budgets to pay for subscriptions to various databases, but even small libraries can provide some access through cooperative agreements, with regional or state systems. Both of the states where the libraries are in this study have state systems that provide access to additional resources. The two state systems function in different ways, but both expand the access available to public libraries.
The Ohio Public Library Information Network (OPLIN) provides both internet connections and access to “quality research databases not freely available on the World Wide Web.” These are seamlessly integrated into the databases listed on the individual library websites, so it is necessary to check against the OPLIN database list to see what the difference. In addition, some Ohio libraries don’t link all resources they have access to through OPLIN.
While OPLIN mostly acts behind the scenes of Ohio Public Libraries, the Utah Pioneer Public Library system is a much more visible presence. Utah library users are able to directly access the state subscribed databases without visiting the individual library pages, and both of the libraries studied clearly state which databases they pay for and which the state does.
Earlier, I examined some of the new features in OPACs, looking to see to what degree these offer instruction for users seeking information independently. Turning to subscription databases I want to discover what kind of services are offered, what kind of instructions are provided, and how these services are promoted to children, teachers, and parents/caregivers.