Category Archives: Final Project

Join the Conversation–Promoting Library 2.0 Tools on Public Library Webpages

The purpose of Library 2.0 is to create an interactive library experience, where users are empowered to engage in discussions with the information provided, with each other, and with the librarians. Unfortunately, most library websites have forgotten to invite their patrons into this conversation, hoping that when their users stumble upon them they will be inspired to join. But lacking any idea of what they are joining or why they would want to join, some libraries have created spaces for conversations that aren’t taking place.

I struggled to develop an instructional tool for this section, because what Library 2.0 tools need to succeed is inherent in the tool and the way it is used. Rather then another outside tool, librarians need to consistently update and use those tools they integrate into their website. They need not just to have Library 2.0 tools, but use them to create conversations for people to join.

One example for this is a Twitter stream. Twitter is a great tool in a lot of ways, not only does it allow a library to spread messages about upcoming events, but it also is a space where they can engage in conversations with their users. Many libraries have Twitter streams, but few use them as invitations to a library conversation. For instance, the Columbus Metropolitan Library has over a thousand followers, but doesn’t follow ANYONE. They don’t want a conversation.

Thus in order to get library users to engage in conversations, libraries need to do more then provide the tools, they need to ask and answer questions where their users can see and engage. For instance, a conversation could be on a Twitter stream where users can ask and receive answers to questions about upcoming events where everyone can see and participate. There are a number of ways this twitter stream can be displayed, from the simple widget I use on the sidebar of this blog, to more advanced code that can be embedded within a web-page. Twitter fans have created a wiki that lists many different ways that users can integrate twitter into their lives and other pages.

Because my Twitter stream is not affiliated with a library, and I do not represent myself as a library spokesperson on it, I frequently engage in various casual conversations. However, a library spokes-account on twitter could engage in conversations on a more professional level. They can “Re-Tweet” or RT comments about the library, other events and services in the community, and links to reviews of new books. While Twitter streams, such as the one I display on my blog, do not contain other people’s comments, they would display the user’s answers to questions. If used properly, a twitter stream could get the conversation going between libraries and their patrons.

Library 2.0 and the Upper Arlington Public Library's Website

On a spectrum of engagement with Library 2.0, the Upper Arlington Public Library falls much closer to the Salt Lake City Public library, with only a very few ways for users to interact with the website’s content. While not completely devoid of means of interaction with the library through the website, many of the tools they use are more traditional, and less embracing of Web 2.0 ideals.

In reviewing UAPL’s website for its engagement in Library 2.0 technologies, I will be looking at the following three issues to guide my review. This will permit me to see both what tools are present, as well as how well this use is facilitated through instruction and explanations.

  1.  Look at what Library 2.0 tools are avaliable  or promoted on the website.
  2. Review what assistance the library provides on the website to guide their patrons in actually using the tools.
  3. Assess what explanations as to why users would want to use these tools, and who exactly would benefit from using them.

Library 2.0 Tools on Upper Arlington Public Library System Website

Like both the Salt Lake County Library System and the Columbus Metropolitan Library, the Upper Arlington Public Library uses Evanced to manage their events. This provides some instant Library 2.0 features, with the RSS feeds and the ability to modify the calendar views. UAPL also allows users to register for programs on line, which is required for a lot of their programs.

In their other tools, UAPL follows a more traditional approach to providing interactivity. They have various e-mail newsletters that users can subscribe to, which allow some interaction with the library. They also provide an interesting book club, where the library sends users excerpts from books via e-mail. While these are not technically Library 2.0 tools, they provide a sense of interaction with the library that is beyond just a static website.

Assistance Provided on Web Site to Use these Tools

The few interactive tools on the website are very simple to use, and so they require very little instruction to navigate. Joining the e-mail lists is a matter of clicking a button and typing an e-mail. It would be nice if there were some information about unsubscribing to the e-mail lists, but hopefully this information is included in the e-mails.

Just as with the other libraries that use Evanced, there are no included tutorials, which is particularly difficult in this case where registration is required for many activities. This tool could use more explanation to make it more user friendly. Either the library could provide it, or the system that they hire could create a tool page.

Explanation as to Why Patrons Would Want to Use the Tools

For the e-mail lists, the library does invite users to join them mentioning specific reasons why they might want to join, trying to appeal to people with specific interests. This is more of an advertisement that describes what the content is, though they do entice readers to experience some books even before they are published. As to the rest of the tools, there is not a lot of explanation as to why anyone would want to use them. It is just assumed that users want to know what is going on, so they would want to use the interactive tool.

Overall assessment of the Library 2.0 tools on the Library’s Website

The Upper Arlington Public Library has not really begun to embrace the many Library 2.0 tools that other libraries are integrating into their websites, but they have provided some ways that their users can interact with the library via their website. These e-mail lists are not quite Library 2.0, but they provide interaction that many users expect. Certainly there is something to be said for an e-mail list that is frequently updated and maintained, versus a RSS feed that is not consistently supplied with content.

Library 2.0 and the Columbus Metropolitan Library's Website

The Columbus Metropolitan Public Library prides itself on its status as the number one library in the nation, and strives to excel through embracing new technologies to reach new audiences. This is apparent through the ways that they have tried to include Library 2.0 technologies in their website. Even as I am writing this review, a committee at the library is working on ways to change the website to include more instruction and more pathways to these tools. Thus this review is just a snapshot of the way things are, and perhaps some suggestions for ways that the library might look into improving their accessibility.

One key element of the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s website is that it strives to encourage users to interact with the site and with the library through the site in many different ways. This desire to move beyond a site that merely provides information, to one in which users can modify and create information, is a hallmark of Library 2.0.  In particular, CML works to encourage children and teens to interact with each other and the library through their site. As with all the reviews, I will be focusing on three main issues, and will strive to:

  1.  Look at what Library 2.0 tools are avaliable  or promoted on the website.
  2. Review what assistance the library provides on the website to guide their patrons in actually using the tools.
  3. Assess what explanations as to why users would want to use these tools, and who exactly would benefit from using them.

Library 2.0 Tools on Columbus Metropolitan Library System Website

While there are not a lot of Library 2.0 tools displayed on the front page of the CML web site, users don’t have to go far to find them integrated into the web site. Most of these tools are integrated into the website, either directly or through an outside service the library uses (such as their events calendar and the OPAC). Some of them are promoted through links to other tools that the library uses to provide services and promote the library to the community.

On the side bar of the frame that is on most of the library’s pages is a link inviting users to “Ask it” via phone, e-mail, or chat. This leads to a page that lists many ways that users can communicate with the library, including a built in chat that provides immediate response. Besides this chat, the library lists five account names for different chat services, where users can ask questions of a librarian, as well as a number that users can text questions to. These various tools invite users to interact with staff via the Internet, to extend library services beyond the physical space.

CML doesn’t just want its users to interact with the staff through their website, but with each other. They achieve this most successfully on the Kids and Teens page, which each feature sways that users can submit content, read others submissions, and comment on content. The teen page has a blog, with content relevant to teens and not just advertising teen events, that is semi-regularly updated. Teens can comment on the blog, participate in contests held on the blog, and discuss issues with each other through the blog.  Additionally, the teens have a Flickr account, where teens can upload images and comment on other users images, a space to upload stories, and a place to upload poetry. On the kids page, there are also spaces to share jokes, stories, poems, and create mad libs. Both pages offer places for users to upload reviews of books, and read other users recommendations.

While the Kids and Teens pages really embody many of the ideals of Library 2.0 participation, CML also has a page of “Power Tools” that offer external ways to interact with the library beyond the website. They want to empower their users to get the most out of their library experience, and offer several plug-ins, a power search like Salt Lake County, and a tool bar. Since the library is committed to developing more ways for users to interact with the library, they have also created a blog to allow users to track this progress and comment on their experiences using them.

The last area of Library 2.0 technology on the CML website is the RSS feeds that are available from the services the library purchase–both from their events catalog and the OPAC. Like Salt Lake County Public library, CML uses Evanced to keep track of events, and allow users to interact with the library events, including setting up RSS feeds to report on upcoming events. They also have a feature in their catalog that allows users to receive RSS feeds when new books are released that match certain search criteria.

Assistance Provided on Web Site to Use these Tools

It is interesting to note to what degree the Library 2.0 tools on the website are supported by instruction and assistance. Naturally, users can use the various means of contact to reach a librarian to ask them how they work. But how much instruction is there that would allow users to independently navigate the tools.

On the library’s “Ask Us” page there are a lot of different ways to contact the library, for the new “chat” feature there is an extensive FAQ, but for most of the rest of the tools there is little help available. For the features embedded in the Kids and Teens pages, there is little instruction, but the interfaces are extremely simple and self explanatory. Since they are embedded, it takes no special knowledge of a tool to work. Each area is labeled with the information needed to submit, and each area is clearly labelled as what to submit there.

For the library’s “Power Tools” there is an entire blog dedicated to discussing them, and explaining how they work and what their purpose is. The blog also allows users to comment on how well the tools work and seek help, though I’m not sure how many people use it for these reasons. Because the blog is hosted on an outside blog software and embedded in the CML website it didn’t always show up when I clicked on it. This made it much more difficult to assess, and must make it more difficult for users to rely on it for assistance.  

Because Evanced is provided by an outside service, the library does not provide any particular assistance on its website for navigating the calendar. Within the calendar service itself, there is little help provided by Evanced, though the areas are well labelled and navigation is fairly intuitive.

Explanation as to Why Patrons Would Want to Use the Tools

For the most part, CML assumes that their users understand why using these tools will improve their library experience, and so only have a few cursory explanations. On the “Ask Us” page, it is just assumed that users will see the advantage of instant messaging and chatting with a librarian on-line. They do provide more details as to why users should download and install the CML tool bar, by pointing out how it brings together a number of services and information into one location.

Overall assessment of the Library 2.0 tools on the Website

The Columbus Metropolitan Library has done an excellent job integrating a participatory element into their websites, particularly with the Kids and Teens pages. While they promote some Library 2.0 external technologies, they have not been as successful in integrating them into their website. For instance the blogs they host on their website frequently do not load, and while they mention their Twitter and Facebook pages, it is difficult to find the links to them on their website. Hopefully with the forthcoming changes, they will increase the visibility of these additional Library 2.0 tools.

Library 2.0 Tools and the Salt Lake City Public Library

The difficulty in reviewing Library 2.0 technologies on the Salt Lake City Public Library’s webpage is that as far as I can tell there are no tools anywhere on the site. There may be some hiding somewhere on the site or on the Internet, but my inability to find them makes me think that a user of their website would be equally unable to discover them. What I did find was that the website is very static, the only aspects that invite user participation are the circulation elements where users can renew and reserve books and search the catalog. The majority of the website is made up of links to other information sources or bits of information. Rather then having a calender where users can make various choices to narrow down events in different ways, the Salt Lake City Public Library has different event lists, already divided by various factors, such as location, age group, and month. This website illustrates an important distinction between library websites that have and have not embraced library 2.0.

 One of the key characteristics of Library 2.0 is the ability for users to take an active role in shaping their own library experience, by being able to interact with the library in various ways through their website and through other tools. Users can not just find information that meets their needs, but find ways to have that information continuously updated and sent in a convenient way. Even the less innovative means of e-mail booklist newsletters allows this sort of interaction and specialization. These tools empower users to create the library experience they need, beyond just finding the books they need.

Because the Salt Lake City Public Library has no obvious Library 2.0 tools, I will not be asking the usual questions and reviewing their efficacy. It is interesting to note that while there are no Library 2.0 discussed on their website, they do offer classes to train patrons in some of these tools, such as a class on blogs and how to create them.

Library 2.0 Tools and the Salt Lake County Library Website

One of the difficulties with assessing Web 2.0 tools on a library website, is that they are frequently embedded so deeply that it is very hard to find them. I might know that the library provides a certain service, but it might be impossible to find, or take a lot of searching. This difficulty is compounded on a website that has a lot of different content loaded on their web pages particularlywhen it is not organized into categories. The Salt Lake County Library System’s web page suffers from this malady. It is full of information, with the front page in particular crammed with links, that are grouped under such general headings as “Quick Links,” “What’s Hot @ the Library,” and “Books, Music & More.” Besides these groups of links, there are a lot of links that are just randomly placed around the front page. Fortunately, there is an option to search the site. It was only this feature that allowed me to actually find any Library 2.0 resources.

In assessing the Library 2.0 resources that I did find on this web site, I will focus my discussion on the following three issues:

  1.  Look at what Library 2.0 tools are avaliable  or promoted on the website.
  2. Review what assistance the library provides on the website to guide their patrons in actually using the tools.
  3. Assess what explanations as to why users would want to use these tools, and who exactly would benefit from using them.

Library 2.0 Tools on Salt Lake County Library System Website

From the front page of the Salt Lake County Library System’s website only one 2.0 tool really stands out from the plethora of links, that for the library’s Podcasts. There are other tools, such as several blogs, RSS feeds, widgets, a delicious account, and others, but this is the only one promoted on the front page. Some of the tools I found while looking through the pages, while others I only discovered through keyword searching the site.

In 2006, the library started creating videos and posting them on a video feed that library users could subscribe to. The podcasts or vodcasts (video podcasts) shared by the library mostly feature interviews the local television stations did with various library personnel as well as recordings of author talks. Unfortunately, the stream is not frequently updated with several months in between installations, with the last one almost a year ago. This tool, however, is featured on the front page of their website, in a position of prominence.

Under “Library Information & Contacts” there is a category called “Library Tools,” this general category has links to some of the library’s 2.0 technologies. For instance they have a link to their Delicious account at the bottom of the page, which appears to be frequently updated and maintained by their staff. This Delicious account is also featured other places on their website, where they use it to provide a tag cloud of links and subjects. On this “Library Tools” page the library also offers a link to their LibraryElf program. This is an independent program that the library pays to provide more options for interactivity for their patrons. Users can sign up to receive alerts in a huge range of formats. They can consolidate all of their family member’s cards, to track all of the items checked out. In addition to this outside service, the library also offers a plug in that allows users to search the library catalog from a box on their web-browser.

Beyond this tools page, the library does offer a series of blogs and myspace pages, but finding the page with the list of them required me to do a keyword search. As far as I can tell, this page is hosted on the library web page but is not actually linked. This makes it harder for users to find the page and use these tools.

There are a few RSS (really simple syndication) feeds available from the library, but they are created and managed through outside services the library uses. For instance, library events are maintained through a services called Evanced, which allows users to search through the calender. Evanced also allows users to subscribe to RSS feeds of activities. These feeds are customizable, offering many options. The library’s OPAC, its Delicious account, as well as this event calendar all have RSS feed options.

Assistance Provided on Web Site to Use these Tools

Visibility of tools is one of the first things a site needs to do to assist users, beyond that there needs to be explanation of what the tool is, and how to go about using it. For some of the tools that are created by services outside of the library, these tutorials are available on the external source’s site. On the library’s web site, there needs to be some assistance to encourage users to give these tools a try. The Salt Lake County Library system struggles with visibility of their tools, as stated earlier, and has limited success with providing any on site assistance.

Neither the video podcasts nor the Delicious account have any instruction or explanation to users of the library’s website on how to use them or what exactly they are. The Library Elf program and the plug in do link to pages with explainations of what they are, and some basic information on how to use them. For the most part, these instrutional library pages merely link to instruction on another site.

Explanation as to Why Patrons Would Want to Use the Tools

As with the instruction and these Library 2.0 tools, the Salt Lake County Library system offers very little in the way of explanation as to why patrons would want to use these tools. The exception is with the Library Elf program. For that tool, the library created a page that lists the features offered by the tool and explanations as to why people would want to sign up for it.

Overall assessment of the Library 2.0 tools on the Website

The Salt Lake County Library system has taken a few steps towards using Library 2.0 tools, but in order to fully integrate them into their website and to empower their users in customizing their library experience, they need to increase the amount of explanation and instruction in how to use these tools. In addition, they need to increase the visibility of tools that they update and use frequently.

Library 2.0 and Library Web Sites

Over the past year or so, I’ve written about Library 2.0 many times: for previous classes, for work, and on this blog. Certainly the term has been buzzing around the web for a lot longer then that, but as I’ve only been involved with libraries as a profession for a little over two years, it is only in the past year that I’ve followed it. During this time, I’ve noticed that librarians are enormously fond of the concept, with many individuals and libraries firmly behind the idea that they can create a user shaped experience by encouraging interaction with the library and its content on the web. These tools are incorporated into OPACS, as I’ve already shown, but libraries also include them on their websites in a number of other ways. Like the other electronic services offered by libraries on the web, some of these tools have more instruction, explanation, and promotion on some websites then on others.

In this final review, I will be assessing the Library 2.0 resources that are integrated or promoted on the webpages of the four public libraries in this research project. I’m focusing on those tools that are mentioned on the website, as I am aware that sometimes libraries will create profiles for their library on various Web 2.0 tools and not promote them on their page. I assume that this is because they are aiming to attract users of those services to their website and not users of their website to that service. Regardless of why, I am interested in the services that the library provides on their website, that allows users to interact with the library.

As with the other reviews, I will focus my inquiries on three primary questions in each review.

  1.  Look at what Library 2.0 tools are avaliable  or promoted on the website.
  2. Review what assistance the library provides on the website to guide their patrons in actually using the tools.
  3. Assess what explanations as to why users would want to use these tools, and who exactly would benefit from using them.

Promoting Subscription Databases

One of the biggest problems that libraries have with promoting access to their subscription databases is that individuals have no idea what is in the database, and why they would want to use them. One of the most obvious audiences for many of the databases are youth who have homework assignments, that they could use  information from the databases to complete. But many students think these subscription databases are just the same as the Internet. Showing students what they can find in the databases is the first step to getting them to figure out how to use them.

In createing a tool that would increase student’s motivations to use databases, I wanted to focus less on how to use the tools, and more on what students would find in databases and why they would want to use them. To that end, I selected four databases aimed at students from 4-12 grades, and created a slide show that showcases the types of information these databases produce. Like an advertisement, this slide show is designed to entice students into wanting to learn more, and not to fully explain every step.

I took the slide show I made in Power Point, and hosted it at SlideShare. SlideShare is a free service that takes slide shows created using various software tools, and hosts them. This allows people to view them who do not have the software that the presentation was created with, as well as creating an embeddable file that can be displayed on a webpage for users to view without moving to a new page.

Overall Review of Subscription Databases and Library Websites

Taken as a whole these four library systems offer a huge amount of information online through their Subscription Databases, but on an individual level the amount of assistance they offer for users wanting to utilize these tools through their webpages varies enormously. Certainly, individual database services have their own tutorials and instructions that can help users, but libraries provide important services when they help users understand why they would want to go to a database, what formats and types of information they can get from them, and which one is the best one for them. Some of the libraries’ websites I reviewed are stronger at answering some of these questions then others.

As with the OPACs, many libraries invest much of their efforts into in person training to use their databases, or consider the databases more of a tool to assist users then for them to use on their own. Unlike the OPACs, however, many users are simply not aware what is available through these resources, which makes users less likely to persist in trying to use them. When an OPAC has no instruction or guidance, users will keep trying to look for a book they know is in the system. If users had any idea what types of information they could find in the databases they might be more compelled try to use them. This is particularly true when it comes to youth, who could use many of the resources for their homework, but don’t have a good understanding of the difference between what they could find in the databases and on the Internet.

Unlike the struggles to integrate instruction into the OPAC, this issue is much easier for libraries to resolve. They need to alter their descriptions of databases, in order to promote them more clearly to those who could use them for their information needs. These explanations need to be easy to find and easy to follow, something that can attract youth to the databases, answering the three basic questions, why they should use the databases, what they will get from the databases, and how to use them! Creating a visual guide to the databases will make them more attractive to youth, and make them more likely to use them.

Subscription Databases Upper Arlington Public Library

The Upper Arlington Public Library has the simplest interface to connect users to their databases. They have all of the resources listed on one page titled Reference Databases & eBooks. Whether or not this actually increases the accesibility of the databases is another question, and is one which I will explore as I look for the answers to these questions: 

  • What pathways are available for accessing the databases?
  • What type of assistance is available to explain or guide the use of the databases?
  • What explanations/tools are available to determine which database to use, particularly for those looking for materials for Children?

Pathways for Accessing Databases:

As earlier noted, UAPL has the simplest interface for accessing their subscription databases. Primarily this is limited to their Reference Databases & eBook page, though there are links to this page from other pages. There are a few exceptions. One is a rotating featured database on the front page of their website, which is changed periodically to showcase some of the resources they provide. Another exception is the Readers’ Zone, which features resources such as links to eBooks and a link to the full Reference Database page. Beyond these few locations, access to subscription databases is channeled through the one main page.


On this main page, users are able to narrow down the 119 listed databases (and yes I counted, and though some are duplicates of one service, there are that many entries) into categories by topic. There are 14 different topic areas, ranging from “Biography & History” to “Health and Medicine.” Databases are frequently represented in more then one area, as they might help with more then one topic area. The descriptions for the databases all are the same in each list, just the groupings are different.


Assistance in Using the Databases:

The two sources of assistance for users who want to use the databases are the descriptions given of what is in each and the lists of databases around specific topics. Once a user clicks on a database, it does prompt them to put their library card number in to authenticate them. Beyond these two tools, there is no assistance offered by UAPL to use their databases on their website.


Database Choice—Descriptions and Age Appropriateness:

While the list does contain some information about reading levels, the descriptions seem to contain pretty standard wording, some of which is more accessible then others. For instance the EBSCO Middle Search talks about the lexile levels of the articles, which is not something a lot of parents or kids are familiar with. While many of these databases are aimed at children, the descriptions really aren’t written towards them.


Like some of the other libraries, one of the ways that UAPL showcases the databases appropriate for youth is by listing out different interfaces that are designed for them. Whereas some libraries just list EBSCO as one source, this library breaks it down into all of the different interfaces. They do this with all of their services, which makes it easier to find ways for different ages of users to find an interface that matches their needs.


An additional way that youth and parents can find resources for their kids, is through the list of homework databases.It doesn’t necessarily indicate what age of school kids, but it does narrow down the enormous list of resources to a more manageable level. There is also a list on “Education & Careers,” but it does not focus on youth.


Overall Review of Database Accessibility:

While UAPL does have some elements that make their databases accessible for children and youth, the sheer number of databases listed, along with the lack of direction for how to access them or why they should be used, makes it difficult for the website alone to draw users in. The site does have the advantage of being very simple, with all resources in one place. Perhaps it would be best improved with the addition of instructions on how to use the databases from home, and by improved descriptions of the databases they offer.

Subscription Databases Columbus Metropolitian Library

Like the first two libraries I reviewed, the Columbus Metropolitan Library offers many ways for their users to access the databases they provide. Just as CML shares many of the same databases with the other library systems I am reviewing, they also share similar types of pathways to these databases. For this review, as in the others, I will be asking the same three questions:

  •  What pathways are available for accessing the databases?
  • What type of assistance is available to explain or guide the use of the databases?
  • What explanations/tools are available to determine which database to use, particularly for those looking for materials for Children?

 Pathways for Accessing Databases:

 From the main CML homepage there are two primary access points to the subscription databases they provide, first a quick search box and second a link to their databases listed under “Reference.”The quick search box is virtually identical to that search tool provided by the Salt Lake County Library system. Once users have established proxy access to the catalog through putting in their library card number and pin number, users can search many databases at once as well as searching the catalog. This search box appears on the front page of the website, and on the sidebar of the webpage on most pages, but is not heavily promoted elsewhere in the library, either by employees such as myself or by instructions on how to search databases.

The primary tool for accessing the databases at CML is the main reference page. It contains various sections, some of which overlap. The first section of the page entitled “Premium Resources” focuses just on those subscription resources. It provides a drop down menu listing all subscription databases by name and then by subject area groupings, as well as a list of databases with descriptions of their content. There is also a link to a list of electronic journals that are accessible from various subscriptions.

The next major section combines subscription databases with other resources on subject specific pages that they created. These pages bring together suggested books, websites, and subscription databases. The first section features the “Popular Topics” which have substantially more information directing people towards the information they might need. Rather then focusing on usability issues, these pages focus on directing users to information resources for specific needs. 

On the sidebar of this page, the library has a rotating display of three “Featured Resources.” One is usually a subscription database–such as World Book Online, another is a link to a resource page–such as the Ready to Readpage, and the last is a link to a database that CML runs, such as their Columbus (Ohio) News Index Obituary Search. These change periodically to feature different resources, so are not a reliable pathway to any given resource.

Another location for users to access subscription databases is through the Teen’s and Kid’shomework pages. These pages contain some lists of web sites and subscription databases broken down by topic area and rough age group. The Kid’s page also has links to the TumbleBooks, which is a subscription database that allows users to read full texts of books and play educational games. 

Assistance in Using the Databases:

One of the main ways that CML attempts to help users with their databases is through helping them select which one best matches their information need. This is done through the subject specific pages on the main reference page. Users are pointed to those databases that have specific information that matches their needs. However, there is less attention paid to how to actually navigate either their general search tool, or the specific databases they subscribe to. In part this might be because with so many databases it can be overwhelming to try to illustrate how to use all of them.

As part of CML’s attempts to focus on subject specific information rather then focusing on specific tools, they do offer tutorials and FAQs to answer general questions. These are located on the sidebar in drop down menus, and cover both information on how to find materials using databases and the physical library. The answers to frequently asked questions deal with such issues as:  “How to find an article,”  “How to research a topic,” and “How do I download digital books.”  These are very short answers, providing more information then instruction, for instance they answer the question of “What are Premium Resources?” like this

The Premium Resources are online reference sites that the library subscribes to for customers to use both in the library and at home. Databases range in subject area from literature to magazine indexes to encyclopedic entries. They can be accessed with your library card number and PIN. Some databases can only be accessed from within our locations.

While it does let users know they need a library card number and pin, it does not actually provide any assistance beyond that.  In addition to these FAQ, they also offer some simple tutorials. Like the FAQs and the reference page, these are designed to show how to use ALL the resources, including the online databases, to find information. The tutorials cover such topics as Family History, researching an artist or antique, as well as various business topics.

Database Choice—Descriptions and Age Appropriateness:

Interestingly, while CML’s databases tend to be organized around helping users find those that will best answer their information needs, they don’t have a lot of information about sources for students or age levels. While they have a list of premium resources for Homework Help, it is not promoted, and is not linked from either of the pages.

The two homework pages in the kids and teens areas have a few subscription databases represented, a small number from the total group. On the kids’ homework page, there are three subscription databases mentioned: Litfinder, Culture Grams, and the World Book Encyclopedia for kids. Perhaps these are the only ones they feel are appropriate for younger kids, though there is no link to the Searchasurus tool available through their EBSCO subscription. The teen homework page has more links to databases than the kids’, but the descriptions are exactly the same as those given on the general page.

Overall Review of Database Accessibility:

One of the strengths of the subscription databases offered by the Columbus Metropolitan Library is that they are well integrated into the other subject related offerings and recommended websites, both through tutorials and through subject specific pages. They also address the unique information needs of certain groups–the exception is children and teens. Yes the two groups have their own pages, but the sections specifically addressing information needs are very weak. Hopefully, this will be resolved with the creation of a homework help page, to complement the Homework Help Centers the library offers at many of its locations.