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San Jose Public Library’s Database Delight program, a 23 Things-style online training on databases, has been going strong for one week now.  For the first week, we have had approximately 100 SJPL staff members participate in learning about our major article database suite with EBSCO (which we’re calling EBSCOhost Research Databases for lack of a better name).

The prize bidding is going well too!  All of our prizes are posted on Flickr as a set, and for each week someone participates, they get one bid on any of the 46 prize packs we have available.  Despite my worries that the donated prizes wouldn’t be flashy enough for staff, we’re actually getting some really positive feedback about what we have.  We had to get all prizes donated by the staff themselves, since we are not allowed to spend any city money on prizes for staff (it’s seen as paying the staff twice to do their jobs), or ask for donations from local businesses (it’s seen as a conflict of interest in that we might favor businesses who donate for future city projects).

Personally, I just love reading through the prize descriptions, which were written by our insanely witty Digital Futures intern, Robert Sese.  Below is one example: the Search Engine Love Triangle Prize Pack.

seprizepackDo you wake up with Google in the morning but sneak off with Bing during lunch? Do you see Yahoo when you’re on that business trip to Chicago? Then the Search Engine Love Triangle Prize Pack is for you!
1. 2010 Bing calendar with some super sweet background images theoretically used at some point on the search page. Each month also has a query typed into the search box to give you something to search for each month. February’s search query? “Pollen”. The first month’s free, but you have to get the calendar to see the rest (or you can view the image at a higher resolution and you can probably read the search terms off the calendar).
2. bing sticker. Stick WHEREVER YOU WANT.
3. bing pen. Write WHATEVER YOU WANT.
4. Yahoo yelling device. I thought the Yahoo item was one of those push lights, but it’s actually someone yelling the word “Yahoo…oooooo!”. I forecast you will press this button at least 5 times, but no more than 13 times in your lifetime.
5. A white and black 3/4 sleeved Google font having t-shirt that says “i’m not your damn search engine.” A bit aggressive for my taste, but most people will probably just recognize the font and say “that’s a Google shirt”. Size small 100% cotton.

The  feedback we’ve gotten from staff so far has been absolutely fabulous.  Since it only takes a half hour or so per week to participate, we’re hearing that many of our staff in all positions are participating: Aides, Pages, Library Assistants, and Librarians. We’ve had a few technical glitches (IE 6 displaying comments strangely, some Flickr prize items’ commenting was invisible for a while), but everything is fixable or work-around-able.  I think we’ve worked the kinks out and are now going full blast!

For me, the best thing about the project is that staff are learning stuff!  Here are three sample comments from staff about the first week’s exercises:

  • Offering quick overviews of SJPL’s databases is a great idea. I am a hands-on person so the exercises at the end are a good way for me to reinforce my learning.
  • Ebsco is where you can send patrons for their Consumer Reports questions! i.e. Do you have the Consumer Report that recommends the best toaster? I also learned something new from Science News for Kids-that there is a new element on the periodic table, Copernicum.
  • I found this to be a nice idea. It should be an ongoing project to help us all keep our database skills sharp. This would especially be good for non-librarians. I often find myself instructing the clerical staff on how to use databases. They are always so pleased to learn about a new resource. With this project, they can become as aware of database searching as librarians and can help the public even better than they already do.

Furthermore, staff are making suggestions about ways to improve the database and pointing out things that they don’t like.  Here are a couple of examples:

  • I am not very satisfied with the language translation feature. It would be great if they included more languages (for example: Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and more.)
  • When you select “new search” the database preference does not reset automatically to “all”. There should be some kind of a prompt so searchers are aware of this or they are likely to get no results for a subsequent search in a different subject.
  • The blue bar containing the tabs at the top of the page is surprisingly easy for the eye to miss. It would help if the tabs were more “tab-like” or otherwise more prominent.

So, maybe the database vendors will be listening – and will see the staff comments and requests and respond!  We’re covering a different database each week, mostly from all different vendors.  This is a great opportunity for the vendors to see a real hands-on evaluation of their products.  I hope they’re listening!

I am very, very pleased with how this experiment has turned out so far.  I encourage other libraries to pursue a similar program with staff and also with library customers!  I have been contacted by two library systems, one consortium, and three small libraries who are now building similar learning programs after this model.  I am so happy that our library’s work is helping others!  After all, learning is a shared experience and one that we can all help each other with.  If you want more info on how this program was started or how it’s working, see the Database Delight website “About This Project” section or contact me.

“Database Delight Online Training: Report on Week One”

  1. Justine Shaffner Says:

    wow Sarah, you seem to be reading my mind – I’m doing a presentation on how to increase database use that stresses letting all staff know about them and this 23 things style training is a perfect way to do it, thanks again!

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