ERL 12 – Trials by juries: suggested practices for database trials

Annis Lee Adams, Golden Gate University
  • sets up all trials at her institution – either recommendations from her, librarians, faculty, students
  • does the content support the curriculum? this question asked before the trial is even set up
  • IP authentication and remote access via proxy? business databases can be bad for this — also a dealbreaker
  • fiscal year — try to trial things in the fall so they can be incorporated into budget for next fiscal
  • often have multiple trials running all the time
  • evaluation done by collection development librarians, faculty as appropriate (only if they know they can afford the product – don’t want to set unreasonable expectations)
  • email announcement, blog posts, discussions at collections meetings held twice monthly
  • evaluation criteria: content, ease of use/functionality, cost, faculty request?
  • track evaluations and record decisions: internal WordPress blog (product/cost info, trial info, evaluators’ comments) – after trial, change blog entry to “draft” to keep for historical reasons — spreadsheet to track all product investigations and decisions, and why (not just trials, price quotes etc. as well)

Jon Ritterbush, University of Nebraska-Kearney

  • Would the product meet the standards of our e-resource collection development product? (IP access, curriculum support, usage statistics)
  • Can we realistically afford the product in the near future? Yes – continue with consideration of trial, No – postpone trial or proceed with full honesty to vendor
  • Does this trial have a librarian requestor/sponsor? — Even if faculty request it, must be sponsored by subject librarian (not just ER librarian looking at it, keeps the liaison role up, helps to deflect vendor-initiated trials)
  • Trials scheduled between Sept.-Nov. and Feb.-Apr. to capture participation by faculty
  • No more than three trials at any one time to avoid fatigue
  • Only trials longer than 3 months are advertised on the blog and website. Most trials kept internal or shared with faculty by email
  • trial feedback: email sucks (short, poor answers, time-consuming to compile), short web forms are better (targeted Qs -e.g.  what courses/research areas would you use this database for?)
  • advertising trial: internal blog with sample “press release” for subject librarians to pass on to faculty, vendor webinar/live demo for librarians and faculty, for extended trials post into to faculty/student listervs, library website and public blog

Christine Ryan

  • Why trial a product? need new content, new content packages or tech, platform changes, consortium changes, user requests
  • Who decides to proceed with a trial? Committee, subject liaison, other? Might be good to create written guidelines & checklist
  • advertising trial: general campus email, general student email, subject liaison contacts (emails to depts, dept. meetings, course-specific announcements), web page, printed announcements (table tents, etc.)
  • gathering feedback:surveys – ask specific questions (what search terms did they use?), conversation, email, focus groups, usage stats
  • analyze feedback!
  • Who decides? Committee, subject liaison
  • Close the loop with participants and vendors (they appreciate the feedback!)


@annacreech: Why don’t you advertise your trials more widely? Can get valuable feedback from students

  • Jon: don’t want to raise false hopes
  • Annis: don’t have access to student listserv
  • Christine: go to the target audience rather than everyone

Liane Taylor: What about when students/faculty want a trial so they can finish their research?

  • Annis: policy that they won’t do that in her library
  • Jon: inclined not to do that, but it hasn’t come up yet
  • Christine: did not do those kinds of trials at UTC, hasn’t come up at her new institution yet – but they discourage that kind of behaviour

Bob Shyer: Sometimes you trial things not knowing what your funding will be. How can you guys trial 3-4 things a semester?

  • Annis: very curious about that things are out there. Don’t get most of them, which is why they don’t publicize very much. Director has always found funds for things that they do decide they want
  • Christine: At UTC they did trial things for which they had no funding, but told people involved in the trial that they had a working wishlist and working from that when funds became available. Managing expectations of those involved.

Kate Silton: Trials are still a good way to keep up with what’s on the market, even if you don’t have the funding.

  • Annis: Yes, kind of like professional development for staff
  • Christine: Trials can be a good way to get people on your side, fighting for funds for you

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