Brian Matthews in his Ubiquitous Librarian column recently posted an article that is getting some buzz. Entitled The 3-click Dilemma: are library databases nearing the tipping point of obsolescence? the article raises some disturbing questions about library databases. On the surface, the concern seems to be that they have become too complicated to search, or to put it more simply, they require too many clicks to get to the relevant articles. Regardless, patience with database searching is wearing thin. Admittedly, some may argue that this reflects a “fast food” mentality and our ever increasing need for instant gratification, but Brian think that the underlying issue is more serious.
He recounts a recent experience with a faculty member that brought the issue home to him. If this encounter is an indicator, the frustration factor is even infiltrating the mindset of expert searchers and those inclined to value library research. But the problem is more profound than mere frustration. This faculty member wants her students to spend less time finding information using databases and more time reading, analyzing, and producing something with that information. Sadly, while still valued by librarians, it seems that database searching may be getting in the way for faculty (not to mention students). In fact, according to Brian, this professor may have reached the point where she will begin altering assignments so that database use in no longer a requirement. In such a scenario the “seek and find” model that database use relies on becomes passé.
Unfortunately, this may not be the isolated reaction of one faculty member, and if that is the case, it will have some serious consequences. But we’re not doing Brian’s argument justice. In order to get a fuller sense of what he’s getting at, you’ll need to read the article. Admittedly Brian’s raises more questions than he answers – but that’s part of the fun!
Tom is originally from Brooklyn N.Y but has spent his entire professional career in South Carolina, most recently as Head of Reference Services at the College of Charleston. As part of the Against the Grain and Charleston Conference team, he serves as the associate editor of the print ATG as well as the co-editor of the webpage. Tom’s conference duties include coordinating the Penthouse Suite interviews as well as the conference poster sessions.
He received his MLS from the University of Buffalo, SUNY and a second master’s in public administration from the College of Charleston and the Univ. of South Carolina. His wife Carol and he live in downtown Charleston and she is an artist and a tour guide offering historic walking tours of the city.