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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The Reference Collection of 2018

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, June 10, 2018


Ohio libraries are unique in the nation, as we have access to 43 different online databases through our local public library through the Ohio Public Library Information Network with funding allocated by the State Library of Ohio and the Ohio Legislature.


Local libraries can also add more databases with their local budgets to meet the needs of citizens in their own districts.


These databases allow library users to access millions of pages of information with a simple access using their own library card.


These databases are shown in library web sites through the Ohio Web Library.


For the past several months, statistics for all of these databases have been gathered and compared statewide to determine of the best selection of databases were being offered to the public.


Library staff around the state assisted in the review of the current databases as well as new databases being offered for public review.


Recommendations and voting was performed around the state to decide what databases would be removed from the offering and what databases would be added.


The real advantage to a statewide offering of information is the reduced prices that can be obtained by a larger grouping of library users that a state can provide.


The big change coming to Ohio’s 251 Public Library Districts will take place July 1, 2018 but the specific changes will not be announced before that time.


Specifically, I can tell you that 9 databases will be removed, and 11 databases will be added to the OPLIN selection with staff training taking place into the new fiscal year,


Care was taken in providing a balanced collection of all types of online systems for all.


The Reference Collection of a library used to be the cornerstone of any library, and was the “pride and joy” of countless librarians across the state who spend a lot of time reviewing and study book options.


Today, those collections of matching spines of books in multiple volumes have been greatly reduced in size if not completely eliminated in most libraries.


Replaced by online databases that are usable in the Main Library and branches as well as on home devices in most cases --- it is a new era of information technology for everyone.


Improved searching and indexing allows the public to locate information faster and easier than before.


I must confess my sorrow at the loss of most general encyclopedias over the past decade or so, with World Book remaining as the lone published encyclopedia on the market today.


Each set had their own strengths and areas of expertise, now all merged into one general focus.


New databases seem to use terms like edition, bank, library, center, source, and collection to express their new electronic format.


Looking at the source of these new products, many publishers of days-gone-by are themselves gone forever or merged into one large system.


Two old publishers that librarians miss are the array of publications developed by The H.W. Wilson Co., of the Bronx, New York which was published for over 150 years from a venerable building right in the city.


The other publisher was known for an address called “The Book Tower” in Detroit, Michigan, also gone today.


A company called EBSCO has acquired many of the old reference publishers and used their talents of online systems to mainstream those products for today’s market.


A fellow classmate from Library School in the 1970s was recounting all the delightful professors who informed us of social sciences, natural sciences, art and history, so that we had a well-rounded education of informational sources.


Things have changed with the tools of library science changing; but the theory of libraries and the reason for their existence have remained the same.