Saturday, October 09, 2004

Labelling Electronic Resources: Batteries Not Included

On Christmas Eve, some forty years ago, Santa delivered to me the object of my desire: Big Bruiser. Big Bruiser was a large white tow truck, a technological marvel of its time, with lights, sirens and motorized winches and cranes. I felt as if my heart would burst from excitement. Unfortunately, Big Bruiser needed some big batteries, and lots of them--more than we had in the house. So although I could play with my new toy, it wasn't quite as promised. Batteries were not included.

I can therefore sympathize with researchers who, upon finding that the library subscribes to an electronic resource, are met with the disappointment of not being able to obtain the article they seek. The look in their eyes reminds me of how I felt that Christmas. What do you mean it doesn't work? Why can't I get the article?

  • The citation was for a period outside the library's subscription

  • The publication is embargoed

  • The publisher wants you to pay cash for access to the article

  • The database does not include all articles from the publication

  • The database that was supposed to have the resource has since dropped it

  • The library's/database's/publisher's server is down

  • Your ID won't let you access the publication from a remote location

  • The database offers only the abstract of the article, not full text

Print resources create some of the same problems, but not usually with the frequency or rapidity of electronic resources. The next time you recommend an electronic resource to a patron, ask yourself: "Are batteries included?"