Thoughts from the CSS Library – Databases

Donna Alden, Teacher-Librarian

A library that has been professionally managed, whether in a school, academic or public library has resources that have been evaluated and selected for a specific user population. Searching for information in that library should garner reliable results. Once the search expands to an Internet search, the evaluation and selection procedure becomes the responsibility of the researcher, and that’s not a bad thing.

It does, however, necessitate making clear that the Internet is not a huge online “library”, where resources have been evaluated, selected, and organized for access in the same way as a library. There is a basis of trust we assume when searching for information in a library, a basic understanding of what the function of a library is, that really shouldn’t be transferred to the Internet. Do we make this clear when working with students researching online?

On the other hand, online databases, to my mind, are true “libraries”, collections of evaluated and selected online resources by library professionals for specific purposes. And in so many ways, the value of online databases far surpasses that of a print collection. Factors such as cost, space, scope and depth of information, format, currency and ease of access weigh heavily on the online resources side of the decision.

I notice students who may struggle with spelling still can’t always locate their topic, but certainly alphabetical order is no longer an issue! The hot linked cross-references, see also’s, related and suggested topics greatly enhance the results in an inquiry, and far surpass print indexes.
Another huge bonus with online databases- many offer a variety of resource formats- encyclopedia articles, newspapers and magazines, multimedia, and website links, many more and to greater scope than many public and academic, but certainly, school libraries could hope to hold.