An answer to the question, “How many databases?”

I’ve joked in the past about how to answer the question, “How many databases does your library have?” (comic at It turns out it is quite difficult to define what a database is, depending on who is asking and what the purpose of the question is. We asked people around the library to define the term and they came up with some really good thoughts about what it means for a database to be marked as a database, for statistical purposes. For us it is an important distinction to make because we are annually requested to report numbers of databases, e-books, e-journals, and other e-formats as part of a collection of national library statistics. We want to get it right, and we want to be consistent from year to year.

Until now we had been making the determination annually. We would pull from our ILS a list of all of our e-resource records and decide which were databases and which were not. You can imagine that from year to year our decision would vary, depending on which version of the definition of database we were using at the moment. This process was time consuming, in addition to being inconsistent. The problem was perfect for a system-based solution, and here’s what we’ve come up with.

In our ILS, on the record for each of our e-resources, we have created a fixed field (re-purposed from an unused field we never activated when we implemented our e-resource management system six years ago) called Resource Count. When we create a new record we will give it one of the following codes (which relates to the meaning and definition):

Code Meaning Definition
– (a dash) Not yet evaluated No decision has been made about how to count this resource.
a Not counted We don’t want to include this resource in any of our counts of databases, e-journal collections, or e-book collections.
g Other We don’t want to count this particular resource because it is included in another count.
d Database Content is disaggregated; presented primarily at the article, chapter, page, or section level.
b E-book collection Monographic content is presented at the book (whole product) level.
j E-journal collection Journal content is presented at the issue or volume (whole product) level.
c Database AND E-journal collection Journal content is presented at both the article level as well as at the issue/volume level.
e Database AND E-book collection Monographic content is  presented at both the chapter/section level as well as the whole product level.
f Database AND E-journal AND E-book collection Journal and monographic content is presented at the small component level as well as the whole product level.

We’ve gone through all of our e-resource records and coded them, so when we are next prompted to report, for example, how many databases we have we can query the system to return a number that includes d, c, e, and f. Nice.

About Marie Kennedy

Putting everything into neat piles.
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One Response to An answer to the question, “How many databases?”

  1. Pingback: Organization Monkey » An answer to the question, “How many databases?” | North Texas Library Assessment Group

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