Database Exploration: A Library for the Digital Age

For the lecture topic of this week (“Digitization, Searching, and Finding”), ‘learning’ truly turned into ‘doing’ through utilizing and critiquing the online database  , an historical newspaper database. The following is my take on the experience of searching through such an online resource.

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The Good: Insights & Advantages 

Overall, I loved the layout of the site, as well as the east in using the various tools and options. The first useful tool of the site, the main search bar, worked in much the same way that the Google search bar functions. To test out the uses of the site, I chose to use the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict as a search basis. When I started to type this into the search bar, I was met almost instantly with a wide variety of options to choose from. One of the advantages to this was the ability of getting to see options generated for me by the site, options that I may not have thought to search of on my own. Another advantage in the search aspects of the database was the ability to use the advanced search and to preview what each search result was about. Within the advanced search option, I was able to organize the search results by a variety of different criteria, including date and publisher.

The Bad: Frustrations 

Through the course of searching through this website, I didn’t come across much that left me frustrated. One function of the site that left me a little baffled and confused was the ‘obituary’ section. Not having any previous experience with the site, I assumed that this functioned in much the same way as the obituaries of a physical newspaper. To test this out, I typed in the names of a few famous deceased figures. For the three names that I used however, nothing of the sort came up. While this may be due to the fact that I was using the feature incorrectly, the feature overall doesn’t seem to offer anything more than the regular search features. Another frustration that I had with this database was the inability to search for pictures within the newspaper listings. For my topic specifically, searching for photos can encompass a large portion of research. Not being able to view specific photos would definitely be a drawback in a potential research effort that relied on a physical element, such as photography.

And The Ugly: Disadvantages 

Again, I enjoyed using the database for my specific research. The majority of the tools were very practical and easy to use. However, one of the main disadvantages I found was in the language tool used by the database. Through this tools, readers and researchers can view a number of publications in a variety of different languages. Naturally, researching a topic that centers around a foreign country involves the viewing of documents in that country’s native language. Mostly out of curiosity, I decided to view the search results my topic came up with in Arabic, a language central to the region and one that I’ve been studying for a few years. I was disappointed to find that the translation was not complete, with words still displayed in Arabic rather than English. In light of the reading for this week, I would have expected the database to manually go over these translation pages, if not for the amusement of native english speakers, but for the benefit of viewers who do not use English as their first language.

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