Magazine article Online

Online vs CD-ROM - the Impact of CD-ROM Databases upon a Large Online Searching Program

Magazine article Online

Online vs CD-ROM - the Impact of CD-ROM Databases upon a Large Online Searching Program

Article excerpt

The Evans Library of Texas A&M University has had an online searching program since 1976 when it began offering mediated searches to the faculty, staff, and students of the university. Since 1982, the Library has offered one no charge search, per academic year, to any graduate student actively working on a proposal, thesis, dissertation, or record of study. In 1983, Evans began experimenting with enduser searching, a program that has grown to such an extent, that end-users now consume nearly 75% of the total online time for all searching done at the Library


In 1986, Evans Library installed its Wiley Laser Disk Service (see the March 1988 and May 1988 issues of ONLINE for detailed information about the installation) which now includes 23 databases on compact disk or optical disk. The databases are available to patrons on a first come first served basis. We do not take appointments for the CD-ROM databases, although we do have waiting lists for the most popular ones, and will limit users to 30 minutes when others are waiting. ERIC SilverPlatter was one of the first databases added in late November 1986. Dissertation Abstracts OnDisc was also available early as a test product. The production model was added in March 1987. A month later PsycLIT SilverPlatter became available, and Agricola SilverPlatter was added in June 1987.

These four databases are the basis for comparisons to online searching because they have been available long enough to show some effect on online searching, and because the CD versions are comparable to the time periods covered by their online equivalents, with the exception of Agricola which covers 1981 to the present on CD-ROM, as compared to 1969 to the present as an online database.


Figure 1 shows the monthly percent of online connect time for each of the four databases. Together, these databases accounted for 31% of all connect time in October, but the percentage dropped to a low of 7.5 in November 1987. For the purposes of this article, 16 months were selected for review, representing at least two months before the installation of the first Laserdisk database through the 1987 calendar year.

The number of online users for each database follows the same trend. In Figure 2, it can be noted that the total number of online users for the four databases decreased considerably after the laserdisks were installed. In the case of all four databases, the users who migrated in the largest numbers from online to Laserdisk products were the users of the BRS/After Dark and Dialog's Knowledge Index services. The people who had mediated searches conducted seemed to still prefer mediated searches, albeit in smaller numbers.

Figure 3 indicates that the number of ERIC online users decreased significantly after the installation of the Laserdisk product in November 1986. This pattern is not so evident with Dissertation Abstracts, as shown in Figure 4. The peak months of Dissertation Abstracts usage (November, January, and September) correspond to those months in which graduate students are most heavily engaged in proposal writing.

Figure 5 presents the number of online users by month for PsycLIT. Again, shortly after the Laserdisk product was installed in April 1987, the number of online users decreased from a high of 60 in April to a low of 17 in November and 6 in December. December figures are generally atypical, because of the limited hours of library service during the Christmas holidays. Figure 6 shows that Agricola use followed a similar pattern, with online usage decreasing dramatically after the introduction of the CDROM version.


Figure 7 presents for each type of database service available in the Library, the percentage of the users who are:

1) graduate students;

2) faculty and staff,

3) undergraduate students; and

4) other

The other category includes non-university users such as local community residents or visitors from nearby colleges and junior colleges. …

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