I recently had a conversation with one of our database representatives. We were discussing the disappointing usage of his product. Why was it not getting more use? The rep offered to send me posters and bookmarks, offered to come in and do a demonstration for the staff, and even for the public. I declined all these kind enticements because, frankly, it would be a waste of time. Much as I hate to admit it, our databases are mostly under utilized. This has nothing to do with the quality of the databases, their ease of use, or the spectacular information they contain. The sad and unsurprising fact is that people eschew the databases to simply "google it". People google everything and who can blame them? As a librarian, I find this frustrating and understandable. A google search is the fastest and easiest way to find information, no question. But does fast and easy necessarily translate to accurate and reliable? Heck, no! Consider the source. Librarians are trained to evaluate sources when finding information. Years ago, it was easy, we purchased trusted reference print sources based on reputatation and reviews, and felt confident that we could rely on the information contained therein. With the advent of the Internet and on-line sources, print reference has gone the way of the horse and buggy. We have turned to on-line reference and feel the same confidence we did with the print counterparts, since they are largely from the same publishers. We cannot help but feel some unease with google, wikipedia and the unverified sources they produce. Who has posted this information? What are their credentials? Who has vetted the results? Can these results be trusted? Are they the best results out there? Many college students are unaware of the fabulous databases their institutions offer, and these are the people who are doing in-depth research! They may be satisified with google scholar and never find what else is out there. While we don't claim to have the depth found in a university database collection, we have amazed many students who turn to us for help and have been thrilled to find quality information on our databases.
So what can we do? Showing individual patrons our databases is worthwhile, since they are usually thrilled and delighted exclaiming "I didn't know you had this!" My personal belief is that the databases we subscribe to will never compete with google, until they are just as easy to use. Database vendors are starting to catch on to this concept, and the day will come when one simple search box will bring up results from our catalog, e-books and journal all on one page. Results will be divided up into those categories, and buried information will emerge in a snap. When that happens, people will depend less on google, because they will quickly and easily find information through the library. Right now, our databases may be the ugly wallflower compared to popular google, but our day will come. Soon, you will wholeheartedly agree that the library is way better than google.