eContent Best Practice Guide

Best practice Guide for Maximising the use of State-wide databases in NSW

The State-wide suite of online eResources provides your staff and community with a valuable, useful and authoritative collection of full text electronic magazines, newspapers and Australian Standards covering a diverse range of subjects - The Best Practice Guide is designed to help you maximise their value.

The Best Practice Guide for Maximising the Use of State-wide Databases in NSW was the result of extensive research and consultation with NSW public libraries. It provides simple strategies for increasing the usage and accessibility of the State-wide licensed databases.

To get even more out of them, provide useful training to help you market and promote these resources to your community.

Dedicated public library web sites, minimal number of clicks, and multiple access points

Research has shown that the visibility and accessibility of these resources are really important. 

Many large public libraries in NSW have their own web site; and many others are in the process of designing and developing them. The best public library sites have a prominent button or menu heading on the home page called 'digital library' or eResources. Whatever the name chosen, this represents the first port of call for a library client in search of full text articles and journals.

The next step, if accessing remotely, usually involves entering a barcode from a library card which allows the client to enter the database world and get on with their search. Whether accessing remotely or visiting a public library, searching online databases should be as simple as using Google.

Research tells us that any more than ‘two clicks’ to gain access to this world, is a click too many. There should be multiple access points available so that no matter where you are in the web site you can find your way to the online library.

Examples of dedicated library sites:

Liverpool City Library

Lake Macquarie City Library

Libraries ACT

The next best thing - greater visibility and access to library resources on the Council homepage

While the ideal is a standalone library web site, this may not be a feasible for small or medium sized libraries, however, more prominent placement of a link on the Council web site can help increase visibility and accessibility – an idea overwhelmingly supported by participants in this research project.

A graphic button saying 'click here for your online library' would be easy to design and place. can provide technical advice on how to do this - the 'two clicks' principle should also apply.

Greater visibility for online resources on library or Council web sites, combined with the 'two clicks' principle, will make it a lot easier for a library client to know about and gain access to online resources.

How to display the range of database options

The next step in helping clients with their search relates to what choices they are presented with once they do reach their destination.

While experienced database users may be familiar with database product descriptors like ANZ Reference Centre, Consumer Health Complete, or the NoveList Plus; these product names can be mystifying for a beginner.

The top ten public libraries in NSW give their clients the option of browsing by subject or database titles.

When a library client reaches the online library screen they see a list of subject categories from which to choose – for example animals, art, biography, business, newspapers & journals, philosophy or science. Sitting underneath this subject list is another alphabetical list of database product names. The advantage of displaying subject categories is that it presents the client with language they are already familiar with and builds confidence in being able to use online databases without having to know what each specific database contains.

Examples of subject/product displays can be seen on the State Library and Hornsby Library web sites:

State Library of New South Wales

Hornsby Shire Library

Ongoing updates, content management

The public library staff who participated in this research were confident that most librarians would have the basic skills to update and manage a web site.

Focus group participants in particular were keen to develop these capabilities so that the library could be more responsive to its clients. Responsiveness is important because when web savvy library clients don't know about or can't easily access online resources through their local library they’ll go elsewhere to find the information they need. 

Piggybacking off other initiatives

Using existing opportunities to market the library and its online resources is a good place to start promoting your resources.

There are many events you can take advantage of, for example Seniors' Week or Youth Week – or whatever else may be on your events calendar - it's important to piggyback off these events and let people know about their online library resources.

From school kids to pensioners, research participants told us that most people are pretty amazed when they realise they can get access to these resources for free. Postcards, brochures and clearly visible signage within the library and placing prominent links on the library or Council web sites, were approaches recommended throughout the research.

Research participants perceive the library and its resources as a 'good news' story, as 'giving something valuable to our ratepayers'.

Simple language

Some public libraries in NSW are currently advertising the availability of online databases using terms such as 'online library', ‘eResources’ and 'digital library'. The highest scoring term in the online survey was 'e-library'. Participants said they wanted common terminology that could be used across all public libraries.

A name that everyone can embrace may need to be canvassed further, but one thing was clear, from the  focus groups and online survey - the term 'database' should be avoided.

Using Web 2.0

Many libraries are now utilising social media technologies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Blogs to promote library services and resources to clients.

The State Library of NSW has developed two self paced courses that introduces public library staff to these and other popular web 2.0 technologies: NSW Public Libraries Learning 2.0 and Public Libraries new technologies

Examples of library services that utilise web 2.0 technologies to promote services to clients.

Mosman Library

Wollondilly Library

Simple and visual is good

Using highly visual and step-by-step online training modules will facilitate better search skills for librarians and library clients alike.

These resources should be Interactive and fun and located at the eResources section of a library website.  Additional print guides and promotional material should also be made available at service points for clients to take home and share.

Many vendors produce simple guides and promotional material in a variety of formats including, PDF, PowerPoint and YouTube videos.  A list of URL links to free vendor guides and promotional material is available in the Marketing Resources section. 

Face-to-face training is still important

Research tells us that public library staff value and enjoy the training they receive from the State Library  - and other sources.

Many library clients prefer face-to-face training, as they can ask questions and try things out in a supportive environment.

Cultivating a training culture

Research participants noted that the specific culture of a public library is a strong determinant in how training is perceived.

Finding the time and having the resources to conduct ongoing training and experiment with new approaches can be difficult particularly in regional libraries. It was therefore important, they said, that library managers budget for training activities and actively encourage them.

Keeping statistics

Focus group participants pointed out that although circulation statistics are kept and used in public libraries, online usage is not. 96% of survey respondents strongly agreed that keeping statistics for online usage was important.  For instruction on how to extract your statistics from the EBSCO and Standards Australia products please refer to the Technical Support section.

If you have any queries, please contact:

Ross Balharrie
Services Delivery Coordinator, Services
Tel: (02) 9273 1498