LSTA: Evaluation of NOVEL, Appendix C

Evaluation of New York's Library Services and Technology Act

Evaluation of the New York Online Virtual Electronic Library (NOVEL)

Himmel & Wilson, Library Consultants
February 18, 2007

This document also available in .PDF


Executive Summary

The Evaluation


The Evaluation Process


  1. Focus Group Sites
  2. Web Survey Respondents

Summary of Focus Groups -- Librarian and End-User Sessions

Summary of Interviews with Library Professionals

Summary of Interviews with End-Users

Summary of Web Survey Results


Maps 3-12: NOVEL Usage 2005

  1. Entire State
  2. Western New York
  3. Finger Lakes
  4. Rochester, Syracuse, Watertown Area
  5. Adirondack Region
  6. Capital Region
  7. Catskill Region
  8. Greater New York City area
  9. New York City
  10. Long Island

Responses to Specific Questions Raised in the Request for Proposal for the NOVEL Evaluation


Appendices -- NOVEL Evaluation --

  1. Focus Group Report -- Librarian Sessions
  2. Focus Group Report -- End-User Sessions
  3. Interviews with Library Professionals
  4. Web Survey Report

Appendix C: NOVEL Evaluation - Interviews with Library Professionals

The NYSL provided the consultants with a list of the names of 33 library leaders in New York who had been involved in various aspects of the development and implementation of the NOVEL program.  Over the course of several weeks the consultants were able to interview all but three of the individuals named.  A list of those interviewed follows at the end of this report.

Many of the people interviewed had been involved with the development of the NOVEL program and their comments were very helpful to the consultants’ understanding of how the NOVEL program has developed.  The consultants asked each of the people interviewed about their involvement with the NOVEL program, what they saw as the successes, what has not happened as they had anticipated or wanted, what or which of the five initiatives in the NOVEL program should be the next priority, and what the impact of NOVEL has been.

While there was a wide variety in the responses, there was also some general agreement.

Successes (and impact of the NOVEL program):

  • The widespread geographic access to the databases
  • Equitable access, i.e., a “level playing field”
  • Cost savings
  • Leveraging existing budgets
  • For some libraries the NOVEL program makes databases available where they would not otherwise be.


  • Drivers’ license access complicated things, especially for students and schools
  • The selection of databases is too general, “low-end” for academic institutions and not low enough for elementary schools.
  • Usage data is lacking or unclear.
  • Access points are unclear or differ from library to library.
  • Some librarians are hesitant to train users to use the databases.
  • Some find NOVEL hard to use; the interfaces are complicated and the state library website is way too complex.
  • Potential users are unaware of what the databases contain and of how to use them.

Priorities for the future among the 5 initiatives in the NOVEL program:

  • Many of those interviewed still place a high priority on the database program—refining it, extending it, etc.
  • Most of those interviewed questioned the meaning and intent of the second initiative, expanding resource sharing.
  • Digitization is not a high priority for those interviewed; coordination of digitization does have some support.
  • While several people recognized that the lack of high-speed telecommunications was a problem for libraries in rural areas of the state, most interviewees did not think NYSL had a role in addressing this problem.
  • Federated searching as a concept was widely supported; however, this initiative seems to be in its infancy in New York and people had a wait and see mindset about it as a statewide initiative.  Some thought that the technology would have moved beyond the outcome being sought by the time federated searching was widely possible in New York libraries.

The comments that follow are arranged by the question areas to give the reader a sense of both the variety of responses to the questions and the similarities in many of the responses.

Successes of the NOVEL Program
When I worked in a college library, we were impressed with the health database and that it was FREE!  Saved us a lot of moneyThen I worked in a library at a liberal arts college and they cared not at all about the health database.  Now the big thing is, “can we save money?”  They’ll go to whatever organization they can to save money.

It’s a diverse collection of databases that are not too hard to use.

The ubiquity of the databases is a mark of their success.  My students access databases from anywhere.  The State Library has done a careful job in getting comprehensive information for our students.  Many people have never thought about the databases and they’re amazed at what’s there.

Greatest success is the equitable access; students have access to high quality information; the databases are things we couldn’t afford across all the schools in the City.

The databases brought an awareness of online resources to our students and teachers;  it has also been an opportunity for us to show what our media people can do and the technology we have.

The databases level the playing field; provide equitable access for students.  Many schools can’t buy beyond NOVEL.  NOVEL provides authoritative, authentic resources.

They’re broad-based and can impact every library user; they’re available through libraries, so there’s a library connection.

For public libraries and small libraries, the NOVEL databases have been effective because of the low end databases, but to progress, it has to reach out across types of libraries.

The equity of access part is good and the ability to get access through the driver’s license speaks to the equity issue.

When NOVEL began Queens reduced costs by reducing some of the databases we bought.  NOVEL represents about a $ 200,000 annual savings for us. The databases were done (selected) well in the general sense of creating a common denominator for the public and high school level students, New York Times, for example.  We’ve also done a lot of training with both the public and the staff.

NOVEL is very important in our libraries; many have based their periodical subscriptions on what’s available in NOVEL.

The success is the fact that they’re reaching goals in terms of the number of searches and the number of libraries participating.

If you have Masterfile Select, the basic version, you can buy the next level.  Many libraries do that.   They can build on the state’s product by paying an additional amount.

Went from MasterFile Select to Premier and from Primary Search to Middle Search. MasterFile Premier is most heavily used.  The library system saved $160,000 in one year because of the LSTA funding for NOVEL.  If individual libraries had done that it would be 4-5 times that amount.

About half of the districts in our BOCES purchase additional resources; if other resources were available through NOVEL, they’d be able to purchase more.

Leveraging tax dollars; if we took half of the money all the libraries spend on databases and let the state use that money to buy collectively we could buy a lot more.

The NOVEL program has been essential in getting good prices.

NOVEL has been doing good about continuing things for at least a couple of years to allow the public to learn about them

My libraries are small and rural; they have more confidence now that they can help users (as a result of the databases and training), but they don’t use them that much.  They’re just not a part of the mindset.  I’m afraid even librarians prefer to use Google, but I think they’re not being asked challenging questions.

Librarians liked getting training on the databases from other librarians; also liked hands on training.  

The successes of NOVEL to date have been getting the databases out there statewide and the initiative on the portal.  We’ve gained a lot of experience.

The successes of NOVEL are that it actually got done!  The databases are available.  It was clear at the invitational grant session a couple of years ago that many libraries haven’t incorporated the databases into their lives.

The databases are wonderful; we couldn’t afford them on our own.  Lots of libraries just wouldn’t have these things.

The fact that there are online resources available to all NY residents is a success.  It took a long time for schools to get to use them.  Hard for many schools to access the databases.  They didn’t have phone lines to some school libraries; some have only recently gotten phone lines.  This is an extremely rural area.

That’s important; it gives me a change to purchase additional stuff that fits the curriculum in my school, e.g., PRO Quest Platinum level.

They’ve added Archival New York Times; that’s great for the high school, because I couldn’t afford it otherwise.

Shortcomings of the NOVEL Program or What has not happened as you anticipated
NOVEL databases are a tiny part of what’s available.  There are so many choices.  Schools/colleges are overloaded.  It takes time to set any database up.  If a database doesn’t meet curriculum needs, they won’t bother.

The databases are the generic, low-end databases.

We don’t have good quantitative data on usage.

They told us originally that NOVEL databases would be available only through libraries, but then they included driver’s license access.  Our students don’t have licenses.  So our school system signed up all our libraries so that kids can get remote access from their homes.  If we hadn’t done that and parents didn’t know, the kids wouldn’t have had access.  It was confusing and didn’t help students when the state started with the driver’s license access.

I think the way that the databases are arranged is a problem.   Nobody thinks to look at the GALE this or that.  People don’t want to take the time.  People don’t care which it is.

In every system, the way you approach the databases is different. There was no standard approach.

I didn’t anticipate that some of the databases would not be full text.  For kids it’s a turnoff to have to go to another source.

There isn’t a true database for the K-6 community.

There aren’t enough things available for lower elementary students.  They need an online encyclopedia.

I do a lot of training; the access points are confusing; we need a more icon driven list of databases; also they’re not in alphabetic order.  Some things just don’t make sense; we aren’t merchandising them well.

Last year there were training grants through METRO, but this year we’re scrambling to make training happen.  We’d like funding for ongoing training.

We do an annual survey of our school libraries and one question concerns training on integrating the databases into the curriculum. 100% of our people agreed it should be done, but 11% didn’t think it was applicable.  What’s that about?  We also asked if NOVEL training assisted in their ability to integrate the databases into the curriculum; 90% agreed, but 10% disagreed.  Maybe it’s the non public schools without librarians and with people who are there only part time.  There are people who are not promoting the databases.  It takes three years to know a database well.

Many librarians are too hesitant to try new things; my reference staff would rather do things for people than let them do it themselves.  Job security may be an underlying issue.

Some of our public libraries have trouble with the drivers’ license access because its limited to the NOVEL databases and libraries want the uses to use the libraries’ databases too.

I’m skeptical about the federated searching with just the NOVEL databases because there aren’t enough of them to make it effective.

Librarians here feel over worked and many are not comfortable in presenting the NOVEL training to the public.  Too many are hesitant.

Lack of federated searching is a big problem.  (multiple people said this)

Users have no clue which database will get what he wants. 

People don’t understand what they can get through NOVEL.  They have to be reminded; we have to market constantly.

Our academic libraries are using the databases more than I thought they would, although they aren’t aware of where they’re coming from.  More PR is needed.  Most of the public library websites are terrible.

I find NOVEL hard to use; the interfaces are complicated and the state library website is way too complex.  People shouldn’t have to think!  (She lives in an unserved area.)

To be successful things need to be patron initiated and across systems and types of libraries.

If we’re going to do databases, we should do it right!  The State Library always has to make everybody happy.  We should have spent money on quality databases, e.g., Masterfile Select, not the basic one. Some important newspapers should have been included.  Point is the State didn’t do what it should have done.  The content wasn’t/isn’t deep enough.

The problem is that people don’t know about NOVEL; the program has not be advertised; it’s just acknowledged on the webpage of local libraries.

I’d like to see more K-12 databases because school library funding is not level across the state.

We need more publicity.  The State Library has done a yeoman’s job; there aren’t many school districts that aren’t subscribed, but that took time.  We need to toot our horn more.

The last year as a pilot on the portal was a waste!  I teach ninth graders; they don’t have driver’s licenses and it included only NOVEL databases.

Next Steps, Priorities for the Future
The question as posed to those being interviewed was stated as follows.
The NOVEL Initiatives included 5 areas although to date NYSL has pursued only the first and fifth initiatives.  Are other parts of the original vision worth pursuing? What should the priorities be for the next five years?  (1) increasing access to electronic resources on a statewide basis; (2) expanding resource sharing to improve electronic and traditional access to library resources for all users; (3) developing a coordinated program for the digitization of information resources in NY libraries and other repositories; (4) enhancing the availability of high-speed telecommunications for NY libraries across all regions of the state; and (5) developing a NOVEL user interface or portal that integrates the services and resources brought together under NOVEL.

It’s hard to choose; they’re all important.
Expanding telecommunications for school use is a good idea, but it doesn’t trickle down to us in rural schools.

The databases are highest in priority in an ongoing basis because of the impact they have; there’s tremendous cost savings to those libraries that had the databases and also a savings for those that didn’t have them before.

Databases need to be evaluated more; there are lots of websites that cover the databases’ content and the websites are free…health and business.  As websites become more reliable, we have to look at that.  What’s not on the web are historical sites so databases selected need to address that aspect.

The databases are wonderful; this initiative needs to be refined; negotiate a bigger deal.  We need to go deep rather than wide, or coordinate statewide prices (need professionals to do that!)

Database access needs to continue as a focus.

Clean up the databases; we still don’t have a good collection; print collections are organized, but you don’t see that in NOVEL.  There needs to be a K-6 and 7-12 collection.  Grolier’s lets you search by reading levels; others are starting to do that as well.  We need to do a thing well before we move on.  (top priority)

Every union catalog needs specific listing for titles in NOVEL; then people would be able to find things…click on Consumer Reports and that would link to the database.

Years ago none of my libraries would have bought databases.  There’s still some leverage savings, but not as much.  (His point was that the databases should not be the priority in the future.)  Maybe the state could buy more databases for staff to use rather than the public.

Libraries have to create the web presence for all the resources; we’re creating web pages that link to the specific resources, creating “customized” webpages.  We’re creating a web page for each hospital (NOVEL databases are included, but not all are linked, only the useful ones are linked).   This is how the system is adding value to the databases.  You have to put the NOVEL experience in this larger context.  Some medical vendors are bypassing libraries and selling directly to doctors.

Academics and big public libraries are the biggest users of the databases; we have to get the public library systems involved more.  Need more support for systems to help local libraries.

It’s an artifact of politics that the private academics have disproportionate political influence in the state.  SUNY was trying to get money from the privates for databases, so they’re screaming.  It’s hard to make an objective professional argument for the high end databases.  The target audience for the program should be school kids.

NOVEL should include e-media collections that library users could download.

For the Steering Committee the database issue is under control, even with minor changes in the direction; the databases will always be with us, but they needn’t take all our time. 

Databases continue to need work in the next five years.

We’re wealthier than other libraries in the area and we’ve had budget cut backs; many libraries don’t have extensive collections.  So additional databases should be top priority.
High end databases that we can’t get through our normal channels should be top priority.

Most important (highest priority) for schools is expanding the range and depth of databases and getting the state legislature to pay for it.  Students need to rely on authentic and accurate information.  NYSL has to get its priorities straight here; what is the goal?  They need a series of good basic stuff and then to target some specific populations.

Priority should be working with databases; content is king.

We need more elementary resources; K-2s don’t get much. More databases for K-2 or K-6 is my second priority.

Academics need databases, but I’d support high end databases only if there’s state money available for them.  Inner city schools need a good encyclopedia.  The problem is that the high end databases are very expensive; maybe they could be subsidized (not totally paid for with LSTA or state funds).  There is consensus that we need more databases at both ends, low and high.  I don’t think the legislators understand; they think it’s all free on the Internet.  There’s a real challenge in getting them to understand the value of databases at all.  Even corporations don’t get it; 80% of our corporate libraries have closed in the last decade.  Online encyclopedias for inner city kids is an easier sell.

The route to getting legislative approval is being able to offer workforce development assistance.

Development of individualized portals would improve NOVEL – a K-9 portal for example; and the ability to include locally purchased/developed databases as part of the portal.  

There’s academic interest in remote access for students, but schools are more interested in controlling what students can access.  Public libraries and systems generally offer remote access of some sort.

 Expanded resource sharing:
The union catalog and ILL were big at first; he’s not a proponent of a single union catalog, but yes to Z39.50.

This is a nice “puff piece,” but I don’t know what it means.

Maybe this means a statewide catalog rather than a statewide card.  If people could search and get materials (delivery), that would be great, but I’m not sure it’s on the map.

SUNY libraries have one catalog statewide; that seems the logical next step for public libraries.  Why do we need all that duplication? 

Statewide card is an interesting idea; maybe it’s more feasible as a regionwide card.  Of course delivery is the other issue with a statewide card.  Having access without a delivery mechanism doesn’t help.

Resource sharing and the database licensing correlate.  We need to figure out ways to save money by working on these together.

NYSHEI has talked some about resource sharing, but advocacy for purchase of high end databases for academic research institutions is their top priority right now.

In five years all will be digital content.  So, if the state wants to be with the curve, they should be moving in that direction.  It needs to be ready for more and more electronic content.  People are using i-pods, so the NYSL should be looking at delivering more things electronically.  Get ahead of the curve and figure out how more libraries will get access beyond databases.

We always say we’re enhancing resource sharing, but I’m not sure how to do that in a practical way; we haven’t really addressed it.  I don’t think there’s a great deal of interest in it.

My second highest priority, after expanding databases, is building the interfaces for searching and delivery, resource sharing.  The state is resource rich, but the resources aren’t shared.

The universal library card will be bogged down for years.

I don’t personally see how you could do a statewide catalog.  It would be wonderful, but then there would be ILL and you’d need delivery and school libraries aren’t set up for that.  It costs $28 to move a book and get it back.  Most of our schools aren’t automated.  Many librarians and superintendents would really like to do retro conversion.

Digitization should be local; forget it.

Digitization has nothing to do with school libraries.
The state has to do something on digitization; it may already be too late.  Leadership will probably have to come from the 3Rs working together.  We’ve asked and asked the state, but nothing has happened.  The 3Rs don’t ever all agree, but some are moving ahead with digitization on their own.  Digitization is the next top priority.

I’d like a portal for digitization (catalog of digital projects that have been done).  There are too many groups going in different directions and it’s hard to find information right now.

This is the future.  “Coordination” is the key piece here.  Money is a big issue, but there are action steps that don’t require lots of money; that’s what the NYSL should do.

Digitization is another area where NYLINK and NYSLA could work together.

Digitization for academic libraries would be a high priority if we could bring resources/materials together from disparate sources.

Digitization is lower on the priority list.

This is not a crucial issue.

There’s a need for coordinating digitization.  We’ve done some things on our own using state money, but there’s no central coordination.  We should be sharing standards and providing guidance on how to do various things related to digitization, how to contract for it for example.  It’s my first choice for priority in the coming years.

Coordinating digitization is my #2 priority, right behind refining the database selection process.

We have experience with tools, standards, etc., but the notion of content and the political framework with so many library organizations (3Rs, public library systems, NYLINK, NYSHEI) needs to be coordinated.  There’s lots going on; we’re wasting a lot of energy working separately.

New York State needs to get its digitization act together; state hasn’t done anything; we need coordination.  Systems have just struggled on their own with it.

Sharing digital resources is invaluable, but it costs money!  I would love to see more digitization.  Google Scholar is wonderful, but you have to pay for them.

There are special collections in many libraries in NY, but it’s a huge job for individual libraries to do; it would be incredible if more of that was available.

There’s a worry that changing technology will make things obsolete.  (Digitization not a high priority.)

Digitization is not a priority for K-12.

Digitization would be of great interest in this area; there’s an immense wealth of resources that are deteriorating.

High-speed telecommunications across all regions of the state:
We all need the high speed telecommunications; that could help us tap into the BOCES network.

Telecommunications is a huge problem due to geography.  Libraries in our county all have T-1 lines, but the rest of the state isn’t so fortunate.

For the areas without telecommunications this is the issue, but I’m not sure what the NYSL can do.

There’s nothing libraries can do about that.

I can’t see how we’d impact that.

There’s no practical way for NYSL to do that.  It sounds good, but…

We don’t have trouble with high-speed telecommunications in Queens, but I can’t see the state getting into that issue.  It’s important on a statewide basis, but that’s not a NOVEL priority.  The market will take care of that eventually.

It’s hard to argue with it, but I don’t know much about it, or how we’d go about that.

I couldn’t figure out why high speed telecommunications is on the list.  I don’t see how NYSL could do anything about it.

High speed telecommunications might be second most important for schools; we still have people on dial up in this area.

That’s important; there are lots of haves and have nots; small rural areas can’t keep up.

That’s not a statewide issue; it’s a local one.

 Federated searching:
Instant gratification!  I like it.  You find what you need and you don’t have to go to it, back out, go in again.  Most colleges have this mechanism too so I can tell my students this is what college will be like.

It’s great!  (a Portal Project Phase 1 library).  We had a setback in that some people aren’t comfortable putting their license number online.  We also have summer visitors from out of state, who don’t have NY licenses.  And, there are many people who don’t have a license.  There needs to be another way for those without a license.  But, we like being able to search all the databases at once.

Searching needs to be Google-like; there should be a general search in every portal (K-12; academic, public, etc.)  Use a Google like search within that portal as well as being able to search individual databases.  The Google like search can’t be at the entry or lowest level—would be too many useless hits.

Federated searching is crucial because it’s like Google.

Federated searching is appealing, but school libraries are automated and that allows federated searching, so it isn’t as high a priority for us.

There’s no need for that; libraries should just buy the products that let you do federated searching; a meta search tool that would include the library catalog, websites, and all the databases.  It should include more than just NOVEL

Federated searching is the lowest priority; improving the technological infrastructure is very high priority, but nothing has been done.  The way the state is structured into LATAs causes more difficulties.  Utilities commission could set discounted tariff rates for libraries, but the federal e-rate probably derailed that idea.

It’s a high priority.

The portal will be with us for some time (as a priority) as we learn from the pilot, but it isn’t the overwhelming issue for the Steering Committee.  The current portal is a low base fee, which the state pays, but libraries will have to pay on top of that.  It’s not clear that it’s easily scalable.  That’s an issue they didn’t think through.

My staff thought the initial screens were awkward, but that should be easy to fix.

Federated searching doesn’t work as well as I’d like; needs more customization; still get tons of stuff.  It’s something people DO need.

Federated searching has to include the library catalog. Our most successful database is the regional catalog.  The database access should be through the catalog.

The next step is more work on federated searches; users want to see a more Google-like front-end.  The public is so accustomed to that; it would help so much in promoting the databases.  There are so many choices up front; people don’t know which one to use first; they just want the answer quickly.
Federated searching via Web Feet isn’t a long term solution; it will be outdated by natural progression of the Internet environment; hard to see that as a good way to go.  On a statewide level it’s a money pit, not sustainable like Z39.50 is on statewide level.

I’ve heard very little about it; didn’t even know it was happening until very recently.

Federated searching isn’t something we can take on; it’s too expensive to get for all our members.

I would like them to finish the federated searching initiative and to promote it.  We need experience with that.  How can we make it more Google-like?  They have to get information out on what they’re learning with the pilots.

We’d love to buy a federated search tool we could use; we’ve looked at Web Feet, but it’s very expensive.

Federated searching isn’t less important to schools. Many students are impatient.  A targeted search in a specific database will get a better results, but federated searching is sometimes all they have time for.

I’m not sure the technology is quite right yet.

It was a bomb! The interface wasn’t geared to us (schools).  My kids don’t have drivers’ licenses.

My (school) librarians are aching for federating searching.  Now students can do only two searches in 45 minutes because they have to go into each database separately.  Federated searching for users is my first priority.

Maybe federated searching should be the top of the priorities for the coming five year plan.

Federated searching will be wonderful if it plays out.

Federated searching would be a boon to users.

Impact of NOVEL to Date
NOVEL databases have provided the opportunity at a lot of libraries to reallocate resources toward other things.  Libraries don’t have to spend money on databases and the databases are being incorporated into the lives of libraries.

We’ve been able to shift money to other expenses because of the availability of databases; the databases make us competitive with the Internet and bookstores.  In the next five years people will be expecting more and more.  We’ll need downloadable DVDs, etc.

Overall it’s equitable access; people of all languages and capabilities have guided resources available to them.  It’s amazing how many people don’t know about the databases.  Marketing is crucial and you have to show them to people.  And, it has to be ongoing, my (school) librarians ask every year, “is this going to continue?”

The NOVEL Steering Committee attempt to provide federated searching (Web Feet—project 6-8 months ago) was a pilot.  The State Library did more damage and created more ill will with the pilot for Web Feet than was necessary.  We all thought the pilots would be able to get federated searching for all the databases, not just the NOVEL databases.

In general, overall the databases are basic stuff; it’s valuable for New Yorkers to have access, but they don’t think about it.   It’s all in how a library sets it up; people don’t care where it comes from.

We hear from a lot of writers.  They seem to be big users.

The impact has been tremendous because many libraries had no access nor any hope of getting the broad array of resources that are available through NOVEL.  Librarians just aren’t good at marketing.  It’s a quiet thing; people do have access to these resources.  We lose sight of where we were.

Most of the academic libraries could care less about the databases; most of them have databases that go well beyond what NOVEL provides; however they do provide them along with their other databases.

Not really effective with the academics, more for the K-12 and the general public

Any additional databases that NOVEL might include wouldn’t be much for academics because they already have those databases, although it might save them money.
Public libraries and schools were behind technologically; for some NOVEL provided the first databases they got.

For the general research community these NOVEL databases are peripheral.  NOVEL databases are a small piece for academics, but it provides a base upon which to build.  The databases give every academic institution a core of resources.  Accreditation has information literacy requirements and every academic institution in the state has NOVEL because it’s free!

NOVEL makes it impossible to say we can’t afford it.

Hospitals work hard to link to the databases within NOVEL that are useful to their users.

Statistics and the vendors is generally an unresolved issue.  (Several people commented on the issues related to gathering statistics.)

NOVEL has been a great savings for libraries; frees up funds that can be used elsewhere; the only databases small libraries may have are NOVEL ones.

I’d like to see NOVEL rolled into a statewide focus on information skills; in five years aim to have an information literate population.  Just providing the databases isn’t enough.  There are lots of reports on what people need.  We need to pay attention to those reports; people need to get guidance/instruction.  Goal is that kids are safe; people are getting jobs, etc.  My dream resides in how people use information to make their lives better.

The impact has been very uneven.  Potential has been greater than what has happened; the number of ordinary people who know about it is low.  A marketing project is a good idea; it needs more money and promotion.

Training seems to have the biggest impact on whether the databases are used, but even that has some problems.  Some databases are too academic or high end for schools.  There needs to be a general encyclopedia; that would be useful to the general population.

The databases have been successful, but not as successful as we had hoped.  There are still many people who are technologically behind.  These things take 3-5 years to be accepted and used.  Wheels move slowly.  Every initiative takes time.  But, the databases are a great resource!

Anything Else?  Other Comments?
In five years I hope we can pull together the five initiatives.  We’ll be into digitization even though it’s low on my list.  Federated searching will be pervasive and we’ll be able to market better, that will make things easier.

They’re not paying for lasting solutions like digitization.  The databases are just subscriptions and they can go away.

There should be a link between NYSLA and NYLINK so we could leverage the money from the same providers.

Selling the databases to the legislature puzzles me.  This is shameful!  Mississippi has state funding for databases.

The high end databases have gotten mixed reactions from the 3R directors.  The academic community would like funds for high end databases (like Elsiever).  My 3R colleagues don’t think the legislature will buy into that idea.  If they say “the research community in New York,” it’ll fly, but then, the schools and publics won’t support it.

Upgrading the databases used by academics was successful in New Jersey, so we’ll try that approach.

The high end database initiative will include all the databases, so it’s a move toward moving the databases to state funding.  Point is to build upon access for schools and public libraries and to expand toward academics.  The initiative causes some tension because the schools and publics worry that they’ll be left out.

Most libraries could use some of what’s in Science Direct (one of the high end databases), but Elsevier is hard to work with.

High end databases would be helpful in our high school advanced placement courses; we have AP Bio and Environmental Science.  We do need to make it easier for academics; it’s a fairness thing.

NOVEL needs to get off federal funding.

It will be a hard sell to get the legislature to go along with the high end databases.  The legislative staffs get it; the state library has done a good job of promoting the databases with the legislative staffs.

There’s a focus problem; getting more high end databases for the academics will lose public librarians.  NOVEL should focus on what public users would want.

If there was no LSTA funding, we’d be more selective on the databases we provide.

We were really talking about resource sharing and a universal library card when we started with the databases.  The point was to provide statewide electronic resource sharing.  We always need to keep in mind who the audience for the databases is.

Process of selecting databases should be open with a reasonable number of representatives.  State library has been too concerned about keeping nominal control.
State library gets mixed up with being the state library and being statewide.

Library Development is very controlling! 

DLD holds the purse strings and they could make things happen, but there’s too much a culture of agreement and consensus; it’s slow moving.  DLD is too focused on details.  They need to be more risk taking and push more.

I think that slow connections at home are an issue.  DSL is available but we don’t subscribe.  There are a lot of people who don’t have high-speed access.

Even if there is more publicity, there are going to be a limited number of people who will use databases.

We did a lot of training..  we did it through our members,.   We’ve been doing database training at the teachable moment.  People need to know how to fit it into their daily routine.

Using LSTA dollars for advocacy for libraries (their electronic resources) would make sense.  The general public doesn’t understand that these are things that you have to pay for.   A saturation campaign might bring it into people’s conscience, but the time you have to do it is at the teachable moment… the moment of need.

The conversation between the State Library, NYLA and the state legislature…     That conversation is important and the legislature doesn’t care about it because the feds are paying for it.

The state legislature has an attitude that says if the feds will pay for it , we won’t.  The marketing has to be to the state legislature to get them to pay for the resources.  There has been no sustained increase for libraries since 1998.

The demonstrations do let the legislators and staff see we’re really high tech.  We just need to get that message across consistently.

I’d like to see a portal (Serial Solutions) more available for librarians; it’s more available for the public than librarians right now.

We have to be careful in how we craft the message to legislators.  If we say all New Yorkers need a range of information, we can make the argument that business start ups need information through their libraries, for example.  Reaching the most people for the buck…lowest common denominator and every legislator has schools in his district.  The message has to be inclusive.  Have to say there’s a need for up to date information on line for New Yorkers to help them in their business, personal lives, etc.  When librarians divide among themselves the legislators don’t have to do anything.

The branding component is tricky.  Libraries that haven’t done a lot in that area probably won’t mind, but others that have done a lot of branding won’t want to give their brands up.  Branding takes space and time.

There has to be some branding, if people just get it, they don’t know where it comes from.  Our webpage uses an icon on the list showing which ones are NOVEL.

The names are a huge problem.

We need better terminology.

Queens is working on our information portal where anybody in the world can access us; there’ll be a daily, weekly, or monthly charge for accessing us for the rest of the world.

We should go back to the electronic library; the State take the leadership for creating the State electronic library, which would include a statewide catalog, and electronic information

A statewide license for downloadable audio books would be great.  The state catalog would demand statewide delivery.

The state had the vision, but they just got stuck with the databases and there’s no money left for anything else.

We need to explore other models for the coming five years.  If the new proposal passes, we can expand access to a broader range of people.  There should be a new model for funding the high end databases.  With the basic databases the state pays for the whole thing or for a base level (Masterfile, e.g.), that’s the current model.  There may be another model: if a library has a database, the state might pay for the upgrade.  Add on a level.  Or, are there ways to leverage what academics are paying and have the state pay on top of that to extend access.  Just need “new ways of operating.”

ConnectNY is a consortium of academic libraries; have 14 independent academic institutions as members.  We use a patron driven ILL system; have two day delivery and 35,000 to 36,000 transactions last year.  We focus on resource sharing; plan to expand to journal articles.  Hope eventually to reach out to SUNY and to connect with them.  New York is very fragmented and academic libraries are not well serviced by other systems.  There are lots of competing entities.  If NOVEL is to be effective, it will have to be more proactive across types of libraries.

If the State wants to be a player, it has to provide money to help us connect the SUNY system and other special libraries like NY Public and state resource libraries.  The separate/disparate systems in NY need to be connected.

NOVEL works for community colleges.

I’m pleased New York is providing the databases; equity of access to quality, adjudicated resources is important, but many states are far ahead of us in doing this.  It’s important that the general population can use the databases; we’ll be ignored if we don’t address the general education needs of the population.  It’s not just students; not all New Yorkers are high school grads.

We need a better marketing plan; the K-12 community is driven from the top down, from the Commission down.  When the Commissioner says it’s a priority, it happens!  It’s a continuum, you can’t stop.  You have to do training by subject area and you have to get to the superintendent and to parents.

We’ve talked about whether the NYSL and libraries in general would be better served if NYSL was in some department other than education; the library community is on the fence about it.  What’s important is getting consistent funding.

Suggested Additions to NOVEL
During the course of the interviews several interviewees mentioned specific databases they would like to have added:

Car repair
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine needs updating
Heritage Quest
Learning Express (has test books, civil service exams, resumes, etc.; also includes e-books)
A general encyclopedia, general reference database for elementary and middle school libraries (multiple school media interviewees said this)
SIRS resources (multiple school media interviewees said this)
Gale—more special databases on US history, authors, etc.  (schools need these, but they would benefit adult learners and ESL folks as well)
“not high end databases, but good basic stuff”


  • Thomas Alrutz, Associate Director, Central Library Services, NYPL
  • Sue Bartle, School Library System Director, Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES, Fredonia
  • Diane Berry, Mid-York Library System, Utica
  • Jeffry Cannell, Director, Albany Public Library
  • Josh Cohen, Director, Mid-Hudson Library System, Poughkeepsie
  • William Crumlish, Director, Hobart Library, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva
  • Judith Dzikowski, School Library System Director, Onondaga-Courtland-Madison BOCES, Syracuse
  • Randy Ericson, Couper Librarian, Hamilton College Library, Clinton
  • Chris Filstrup, Dean of Libraries & Director of Library Services, Stony Brook
  • Gina Fredericks, Director, Liverpool Public Library, Liverpool
  • Thomas Galante, Director, Queens Borough Public Library, Jamaica
  • Peter Genovese, Director of Libraries, Monroe Community College, Rochester
  • Bart Harloe, University Librarian, Saint Lawrence University, Canton
  • Carey Hatch, Assistant Provost, Library & Information Services, SUNY  Systems Administration, Albany
  • Dottie Hiebing, Director, METRO, New York City
  • Sara Kelly Johns, Library Media Specialist, Lake Placid Middle/Sr. High School, Lake Placid
  • Tessa Killian, Southeastern NY Library Res. Council, Highland
  • Robyn Klose, Manager of Electronic Resources & Services, Nassau Library System, Uniondale
  • Jerry Kuntz, Electronic Resources Consultant, Ramapo-Catskill Library System, Middletown
  • Mary-Alice Lynch, Executive Director, NYLINK, Albany
  • Pamela McLaughlin, Director Digital Library Development, Syracuse University, Syracuse
  • Kathy Miller, Director, Rochester Regional Library Council, Fairport
  • Jennifer Morris, Director, Pioneer Library System, Canandaigua; current NYLA President; former chair of the NYLA Legislative Committee
  • Jerry Nichols, Director, Palmer Institute for Public Library Organization and Management, Long Island University, Brookville
  • JoAnn Rockefeller, School Library System Director, Frank W. Cyr Center, Stamford
  • Ellen Rubin, High School Librarian, Wallkill High School, Wallkill
  • John Shaloiko, Director, Southeastern NY Library Res. Council, Highland
  • Jean Sheviak, Director, Capital District Library Council, Albany
  • Barbara Stripling, Director, NY City School Library System, NY City
  • Catherine Way, Director, Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System, Jamestown
  • Allison Wheeler, School Library System Director, St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES, Norwood

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Last Updated: July 24, 2019