Technology

Use of Statewide Databases Skyrockets in 2009: Library Patrons Benefit from Additional Databases & Training

Use of electronic databases in Colorado libraries increased significantly during the last fiscal year, according to new data from the Acquisition of Information Resources Statewide (AIRS) Committee. Thanks to a significant investment in training for librarians and additions to the statewide database package, database use more than doubled between Fiscal Year 2007-08 (FY08) and Fiscal Year 2008-09 (FY09).

For each fiscal year, the AIRS Committee—a group of representatives from the Colorado State Library, the Colorado Library Consortium (CLiC), the Bibliographic Center for Research (BCR), Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries, and individuals from public, academic, school, and special libraries—negotiates the database package from EBSCO and OCLC at a special statewide rate. The package includes databases covering general, business, and K-12 information (see sidebar).

During FY08, 695 libraries subscribed to the AIRS database package, compared to 715 in FY09. In spite of only a modest increase (3%) in the number of participating libraries and comparing only the databases common to both years, the number of sessions increased by 56 percent for all libraries from FY08 to FY09. For some types of libraries the increase was even greater, with special (120%) and public (113%) libraries showing the largest growth (see Table 1).

Databases in the AIRS Package Fiscal Year 2008
- Academic Search Premier
- Agricola
- Biomedical Reference Collection: Basic Edition
- Business Source Premier
- Corporate ResourceNet
- EBSCO Animals
- ERIC
- Fuente Academica
- Health Source: Consumer Edition
- Image Collection
- MAS Ultra – School Edition
- MedicLatina
- MiddleSearch Plus
- Newspaper Source
- Nursing and Allied Health Collection: Basic Edition
- Primary Search
- Professional Development Collection
- Regional Business News
- TopicSearch
- WorldCat

Training Pays Off
These increases can be attributed largely to the training sessions, which were comprehensive and used different approaches for different types of libraries, according to Lisa Priebe, Assistant Director at CLiC, which helped coordinate trainings throughout the state. “Without a trained staff, you can’t train your patrons,” Priebe said.

Table 1
AIRS Database Package Use, 2008 and 2009
Comparing Databases Common to Both FY08 & FY09

282_Table 1Note: A session is defined as a login by the user to one or more databases from a vendor to find information on one or more topics.

During FY09, the AIRS committee focused on training librarians, in-person and online, on how to use databases in the package. Representatives from EBSCO and CLiC conducted 25 webinars and 37 live training sessions for librarians throughout the state. In addition, BCR taught 3 classes on OCLC FirstSearch and EBSCO conducted 4 “Train the Trainer” sessions, which gave attendees the skills to teach their coworkers and patrons about package databases. Between September 2008 and May 2009, 938 Colorado librarians (excluding those who viewed archived webinars) received database training. “The investment in training for library staff throughout Colorado’s libraries had a planned effect. Becoming more informed about the databases meant that staff members promoted them directly to their communities in various settings, both within the library as well as through outreach efforts,” said Jim Duncan, Director of Networking and Resource Sharing.

More Databases, More Use
Investing in training is only half the story. As the database package grew, so did the number of sessions in all types of libraries.

A 2007 survey of library staff identified the topics most frequently requested by patrons, educators, and students. Nine databases related to these popular topics were added for FY09. When the use of these databases is included in the comparison to FY08, the increases in use are even more dramatic. Statewide, the use of AIRS databases increased by 139 percent from FY08 to FY09. Public libraries saw the largest increases with the number of database sessions increasing by more than 800 percent in FY09. Use in special, community college, and K-12 libraries increased significantly as well—more than doubling in a year (see Table 2).

Once again the increased usage was no accident, but instead the result of AIRS Committee initiatives. “The addition of educational and research content, geared to kids for study and homework, addressed the findings of an earlier needs assessment in which libraries reported and stressed their desire to deliver quality K-12 content,” explained Duncan, adding, “The demand was already there and primed to consume all of that database content.”

Databases Added to the AIRS Package
Fiscal Year 2009
- Auto Repair Center
- Consumer Health Complete
- History Reference Center
- Literary Reference Center
- MasterFILE Premier
- NoveList
- NoveList K-8
- Points of View Reference Center
- Science Reference Center
Note: the Image Collection database was removed in 2009.

Table 2
AIRS Database Package Use, 2008 and 2009
Comparing FY08 to FY09, Including Additional Databases in FY09

282_Table 2Looking Forward
282_Image 1In 2009-10 (FY10), $1 million was eliminated by the state from the budget line that had been appropriated in 2008 to subsidize the AIRS database package costs. This resulted in a substantial shortfall in funding and some databases were cut. The AIRS Committee negotiated with EBSCO and OCLC to create an affordable, smaller package, in which the number of EBSCO databases was reduced to the resources most frequently used in all types of libraries. The package now contains 12 databases, and 719 libraries are subscribed as of this writing.

With fewer databases available to patrons, where will patrons turn for information? Some believe the Internet has all the answers—for free. However, as Duncan points out, “Individuals and small businesses that understand and value the role of libraries in providing access to high-quality educational content recognize that libraries offer them a competitive advantage. Unlike so-called ‘free’ Internet resources, these databases are available to library users as an integrated mix, drawing together consultation by professional librarians, training in how to search, customized service, and high-value content.”

Web 2.0 and Colorado’s Public Libraries

Like most sectors, public libraries are being dramatically affected by a world of rapidly changing technology. Savvy consumers are beginning to expect the organizations that they interact with to have increasingly sophisticated web presences. In order to compete for their patrons’ attention, and better serve their communities, some public libraries are beginning to enter into the realm of “Web 2.0,” reaching out to users in new ways.

280_Image 1
The Library Research Service (LRS) recently concluded a study, U.S. Public Libraries and the Use of Web Technologies,1 which sought to determine the extent to which public libraries across the nation are adopting specific web technologies ranging from the most basic—having a web presence—to more recent technological developments such as having a presence on various social networking sites. In the spring of 2008, LRS staff members scoured the web sites of nearly 600 public libraries in the United States, looking for the existence of these technologies. The study included all public libraries in Colorado, giving us the opportunity to see where Colorado’s libraries stand relative to their counterparts nationwide in terms of web technology implementation.

Virtual Reference
There were a few areas where Colorado’s public libraries far outpaced their peers in the rest of the country. Most notably, Colorado’s public libraries were well over twice as likley to provide a chat reference service than the public libraries in United States as a whole (see Chart 1). More than half (53%) of the state’s public libraries offer such a service, compared with just over one in five (22%) nationwide. This difference existed for libraries of all sizes. For instance, all public libraries serving at least 500,000 people in Colorado provided chat reference, compared with 72 percent nationwide, and the rate of chat refrence availability for libraries serving between 100,000 and 499,999 patrons was more than twice as high in Colorado than in the nation generally (89% versus 43%). The contrast between libraries in Colorado and those elsewhere is even greater when comparing smaller libraries. Colorado public libraries serving fewer than 10,000 people are over three times more likely to offer chat reference to their patrons than similar sized libraries throughout the United States (41% versus 13%).

280_Chart 1

This high rate of public libraries providing chat reference in Colorado can be attributed mainly, if not wholly, to the presence of AskColorado, the state’s collaborative virtual reference services. In 2008, while some of the state’s public libraries use AskColorado in addition to another virtual reference service, only two Colorado public libraries were identified that provided chat reference but did not use AskColorado.

According to AskColorado coordinator Kris Johnson, “Early on, libraries in Colorado realized offering a 24/7 chat reference service would benefit their patrons, but that they couldn’t offer the service alone. So, in 2003 Colorado libraries formed the AskColorado virtual reference cooperative. Member libraries contribute financially to the service, and about half of those libraries staff the service. Libraries in the state have embraced this model.”

Online Catalogs
The other area where Colorado’s public libraries significantly outperformed their counterparts nationwide was in the likelihood of its libraries to provide online access to their catalogs. An estimated 62 percent of public libraries in the United States allowed online catalog access; that number jumped to 73 percent for Colorado’s libraries. Again, Colorado outpaced the nation primarily among the smallest libraries (see Chart 2). Nearly all (95%) of Colorado’s libraries serving 10,000-24,999 people provided such access, compared with just over four out of five (82%) nationwide. Among libraries serving fewer than 10,000, 58 percent in Colorado provided online account access compared with 45 percent nationwide.

280_Chart 2Like the differences in chat reference, much of the success Colorado’s public libraries achieve in terms of offering online catalog access can be attributed to the existence of a statewide service. In this case, the Plinkit project, which assists libraries by providing a no-cost solution to developing an online web presence, is crucial. According to Christine Kreger, Plinkit project coordinator for Colorado, “Libraries today are all about building community and being accessible to their patrons. Plinkit, a website creation and hosting service provided by the Colorado State Library, offers small, rural libraries across Colorado the opportunity to put their library online and to allow their users to connect to the library’s catalog, information and services 24/7.”

Plinkit Helps Libraries Adopt Web 2.0 Technologies
“Plinkit has significantly improved our library service to patrons in Teller County.   Because of Plinkit we have been able to create a great looking, professional website for our two libraries. We list our events, computer classes and story times on our Plinkit calendar.  We have customized our Plinkit homepage to include library news, links to our catalog, links to our proprietary databases, an online Interlibrary Loan form, links to state and local services, a link to Ask Colorado, and much more.” – Plinkit User

Other Web 2.0 Technologies
For most other technologies included in the study, results for Colorado’s public libraries mirrored the nation-wide sample (see Chart 3).  Though most libraries in Colorado had a web presence (81%), like their peers across the country, public libraries in Colorado were not likely to have ventured very deeply into Web 2.0 technologies at the time of the study. About a third of the public libraries in Colorado were communicating with their patrons via a blog or blogs, and roughly the same percentage explicitly allowed their patrons to send in reference questions via email. Presence in social networking spaces was nearly non-existent for Colorado’s public libraries, and though libraries in Colorado were slightly more likely to allow for tagging of catalog items than the rest of the nation as a whole, only four percent allowed this option.

280_Chart 3

The fast-evolving nature of the web makes it difficult to determine which technologies are worth the investment of resources, and which are flashes in the pan. Public libraries in Colorado, like their counterparts throughout the United States, are still feeling their way through the wilds of Web 2.0,. One thing, however, is evident. When a path has been chosen, collaboration can be key in making progress. In this venue—with AskColorado and Plinkit as examples—Colorado’s public libraries are trailblazers.

Internet Access High in Colorado’’s Public Libraries

According to a February 2002 National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) report, A Nation Online: How Americans are Expanding Their Use of the Internet, 143 million Americans, or about 54 percent of the population, were using the Internet as of September 2001. With over half of the nation’’s population surfing the web, how have public libraries responded? Colorado’’s libraries have responded strongly by greatly increasing the number of public access Internet computers. In 1999, Colorado’’s public libraries provided 1.43 computers for every 5,000 people served by those libraries, for a total of 1,146 Internet terminals across the state. By 2002, when Colorado’’s public libraries housed 2,318 public Internet terminals, that ratio had jumped 87 percent to 2.67 computers for 5,000 people served. The largest one-year increase came between 2000 and 2001, when Colorado public libraries increased their public access Internet computers by 42 percent (see Table 1 in full report). It plateaued slightly in 2002, with only a 5 percent increase, and it will be interesting to see how budget constraints affect this progression in the next few years.

Click the Download Report button at right to continue reading this Fast Facts.

Kids & Computers

The ““digital divide”” is a social phenomenon created by the social obstacles that limit access to computer technology and digital resources. Providing access to this technology and these resources are important parts of public library service in the 21st century.

In March 2002, the Library Research Service conducted a survey of users of Internet computers in Colorado public libraries. Of 1,856 responding public library Internet users from throughout the state, 164 were younger than 18. We found that young people are engaged in wide and frequent use of this technology; that they often serve as teachers of technology skills to adults and peers; and that public libraries help to bridge the “”digital divide”” for Colorado’’s youth.

Highlights
Colorado library patrons younger than 18 indicated that…

  • 15 percent of kids who use library Internet computers report no other access to the Internet.
  • Over three-quarters of these young Internet users were visiting libraries because of the access to technology.

Colorado library Internet users older than 18 indicated that…

  • In many instances, kids were their primary source of learning new technology skills.

Click the Download Report button at right to continue reading this Fast Facts.

GUI Grants Make a Dent in the Digital Divide

If you are from the metro area, broadband (high-speed) Internet access is probably a given in your local library. In fact, you probably don’t think twice about web pages downloading quickly and having access to sound and video over the net. Unfortunately, in rural areas, this is often not the case. Exorbitant costs, poor telecommunications infrastructure, and lack of vendors have made it difficult, if not impossible, for some rural communities to get broadband Internet access.

Since implementation of the Graphical User Interface (GUI) grant, a $250,000 two-year LSTA grant, 57 public and school libraries that lacked Internet access, or only had dial up, now have some form of broadband Internet access. The GUI grants helped to purchase computers and to offset telecommunications costs by paying for first-time installations and one year of Internet access fees for libraries receiving GUI grants.

What were the far-reaching effects of these grants? Has improved Internet access made a difference to those libraries receiving GUI grants?

Click the Download Report button at right to continue reading this Fast Facts.

Availability of Public Access Internet Computers in U.S. Public Libraries by State and Size of Jurisdiction, 1999

How many computers does a public library need to provide equitable public access to the Internet?

There are a lot of ways to go about answering this question. One strategy is to consider the typical number of such computers found in libraries of different sizes and in different parts of the nation. To account for the enormous variation in the size of public library jurisdictions, it is also helpful to adjust for that factor by looking at the ratio of computers to a certain level of population—let’s say, 5,000 people.

Highlights

  • The average number of public access Internet computers per 5,000 served rises as size of jurisdiction drops: for 25,000 and higher, one; for 5,000 to 25,000, two; and for less than 5,000, three.
  • States reporting the most public access Internet computers per 5,000 served are: Wisconsin (4.6), Minnesota and Colorado (both 4.0).
  • States reporting the fewest such computers per 5,000 served are: Arkansas and Hawaii (both 0.8), South Carolina (0.7),  Connecticut (0.4).

Click the Download Report button at right to continue reading this Fast Facts.

Technology Trends for Colorado School Library Media Programs, 1994-98

A first look at 1998 data on school library media (LM) programs in Colorado reveals some encouraging trends about the role of technology in those programs. From 1994 to 1998, the percentage of LM programs making various technologies available to their clients—both teachers and students—increased dramatically.

Highlights:

  • Since 1994, Internet access for students almost quadrupled. While only 1 in 6 LM programs provided Internet access for students in 1994, 4 out of 5 provide students access to the World Wide Web today.
  • The Access Colorado Library and Information Network (ACLIN), available in only 2 out of 5 schools in 1994, is now available to all schools that provide web access.
  • Computers with modems, local and district catalogs, and online database searching are also more common in 1998 than in 1994, as are “basic” technology items, such as touch-tone telephones, photocopiers, and fax machines.

Click the Download Report button at right to continue reading this Fast Facts.

Library Media Specialists & Technology Linked to Higher CSAP Test Scores

In 1997, Colorado fourth graders were the state’s first public schoolchildren to be tested on reading via the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP). Average test scores for a stratified and weighted random sample of 67 (seven percent) of Colorado’s 908 elementary schools were combined with data about their library media programs to answer the following questions:

Are students likely to earn higher reading scores if:

  • their schools have state-endorsed library media specialists?
  • their school library media specialists are supported by aides?
  • their library media specialists play a vital instructional role, complementing the work of classroom teachers?

Click the Download Report button at right to continue reading this Fast Facts.

Coloradans–and Colorado Public Libraries–Top National Internet Norms

Recent state and national surveys indicate that Coloradans—and Colorado public libraries—meet or exceed several national norms regarding the Internet. Coloradans are 38 percent more likely to be regular Internet users. Nationwide, 34 percent of American adults use the Internet on at least a monthly basis, but 47 percent of Colorado adults do so. Similarly, the state’s public libraries are 22 percent more likely than libraries nationwide to provide Internet access. Sixty percent of U.S. public libraries provide Internet access, compared with 73 percent in Colorado.

Colorado public libraries enjoy this distinction whether they are in urban (i.e., metropolitan) or rural (i.e., non-metropolitan) areas (see table in full report).

Click the Download Report button at right to continue reading this Fast Facts.

ACLIN & Internet Services in Colorado Public Libraries, 1997

While many still think of libraries primarily as warehouses for books, almost all of Colorado’s public libraries now provide electronic access to information. The two primary channels of such access are ACLIN, the Access Colorado Library and Information Network, and the global Internet. ACLIN includes OVER 230 library catalogs and other informational databases.

Electronic Access to Information
The most ubiquitous form of electronic access to information in Colorado public libraries is to ACLIN. All Coloradans living in public library service areas of 5,000 or more can consult ACLIN at their libraries. The overwhelming majority of the state’s smallest public libraries also provide ACLIN access.

Click the Download Report button at right to continue reading this Fast Facts.

Page 2 of 3123

POPULAR RESOURCES

  • Public Library Statistics & Profiles
    Dive into annual statistics from the Colorado Public Library Annual Report using our interactive tool, results tailored to trustees, and state totals and averages.
  • School Library Impact Studies
    School libraries have a profound impact on student achievement. Explore studies about this topic by LRS and other researchers in our comprehensive guide.
  • Fast Fact Reports
    Looking for a quick rundown of library research? Check out our Fast Facts, which highlight research and statistics about various library topics.

LIBRARYJOBLINE

See more @ LibraryJobline.org

ABOUT

LRS is part of the Colorado State Library, a unit of the Colorado Department of Education. We design and conduct library research for library and education professionals, public officials, and the media to inform practices and assessment needs. We partner with the Library and Information Science program at University of Denver's Morgridge College of Education to provide research fellowships to current MLIS students.

This project is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

Staff & Contact Info