Are databases dead?

I’m going to be blunt in this post.  Databases are dead.  (Okay, maybe that is a bit dramatic.)  And who would mourn their loss?  What value do they add to our internet experience?

Both Joyce Valenza and I (and I’m sure scores of other librarians) have probably written similar posts in the past asking database vendors to improve their wares.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I personally think databases are very helpful to students–obviously getting good sources of information that are accurate and current and informative is a good thing.  They make one stop shopping easier for students.

However, unless database companies make some changes the writing is on the wall in this era of shrinking budgets….

1.  Databases are dead unless they develop an interface like this:

instead of this:

Students and teachers alike just want to search.  They don’t care which particular database has the article. They’ll winnow their choices out once they get results.

And If they really care which source they are using, which on occasion they do, they can use something called “Advanced search.”  (or the librarian can help them use it)–which can be a simple button on the toolbar.

2. Databases are dead unless they get more “hip.” Databases aren’t hip for high school students.  Facebook is hip, texting is hip, Deviant Art is hip, but databases, nope.  Why can’t portals to research be fun and hip?  Why don’t they look more fun?  

Ebsco Kids search is called “Searchasaurus” and has a island with clickable icons;  Newsbank’s Kid search has a hounddog sniffing out the facts.   But the high school search pages?  Text, and more text, too many menu choices, and clutter.

3. Databases are dead unless they can have a box like this on the toolbar.  (or as Joyce Valenza says, are a widget you can embed on your own webpage.)


No one wants to wade through three or four screens just to begin a search.

4.  Databases are dead unless they realize that Google (and other sites) are beating them at their own game.

At the college level, perhaps this is  a different matter.  But if you are talking 9-12, the database companies need to get with the program.  The more offerings on Google, the more database companies need to really focus on promoting their value–promoting it via fun advertising pitched at k-12 students, promoting it via clever and witty interfaces–promoting the creativity of research.

The market is getting tougher as the economy worsens and school districts are having to make tough choices.   Will that drive changes in the database market?



3 thoughts on “Are databases dead?

  1. I couldn’t agree more. Databases are a pain to use, particularly if you are a student. When will they start listening to the consumer? We are finding it necessary to construct assignments that specifically walk students through the database we want them to use. And we know that for many of them, that will be the only time they go there.

  2. Mea Culpa! Ironically just after finishing this post, Facts on File called me to update me on how to use their new widget on my website.

    So, maybe they are listening, at least some companies are.

    It’s not a hip widget, but at least it’s a widget!

  3. It could be argued that this is the age of the database. The internet is one giant database of everything. Sorting, filtering, and identification strategies for dealing with the vast database become important, the program used to create it not.

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