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Practical Guidelines For Choosing Bibliographic Databases

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.424.1 - 4.424.16

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Larry Thompson

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3441

Practical Guidelines For Choosing Bibliographic Databases.

Larry A. Thompson Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


This paper examines the decision making process for obtaining a bibliographic database within a library. When choosing a database, three primary questions should be asked: what resource meets the information need; what database meets the information need; and, what vendor should provide the database? This paper briefly examines the first two questions, while the third question, selection of database vendor, is investigated in detail. The selection of a database vendor is related to four main groups within the library: public services, acquisitions, technical services, and systems. Each of these groups has critical functions within the library's decision making process and helps ensure that the database collection is optimized so that it can be used to its fullest extent. The procedures presented here are based upon the methodology used at Virginia Tech during a recent review and update of its database collection.

I. Introduction

As bibliographic databases flourish and now provide access to nearly every subject area, it is increasingly difficult to decide which should be included in the library collection. Limited budgets dictate that not every database can be purchased, while at the same time newly arriving faculty and graduate students question why they don't have desktop access to the same resources they had at their previous institutions. Compounding the problem is the fact that databases are often seen as a panacea for every information need, while in some cases traditional print resources may be more effective.

In selecting a database there are three basic decision points to be crossed. First, it must be determined if a purchased database is the appropriate resource. Before limiting the resource search to purchased databases, it is necessary to look at all information resources and determine the best for the given situation.

Second, if a database is the best resource to meet the users' needs, a selection must be made among the many available. Databases covering the same subject vary in breadth and depth of coverage, backfile length, and other characteristics. Choosing the database that best matches the users' needs and the library's collection will assure better use of funds, and more content users.

After a specific database has been selected, the third step is to choose among the various vendors of the database. The primary focus of this paper is on the decision making process used to choose among database vendors.

Thompson, L. (1999, June), Practical Guidelines For Choosing Bibliographic Databases Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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