The Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) is an advisory body to the higher and further education funding councils for England, Scotland and Wales, and the Department of Education of Northern Ireland in matters related to the use of information and communications technology in education and research. In the world of committees, it has been offering remarkably practical digital information products and services for colleges and universities (www.jisc.ac.uk/aboutus/whoweare/valueimpact.aspx) for a variety of very large‐scale projects. One of the services helps librarians in comparing and selecting digital information resources for licensing. The JISC Academic Database Assessment Tool (JISC ADAT) – created for JISC by DataSalon – is offered free of charge under a Creative Commons license agreement so it is available to any type of library (and any user) anywhere in the world, not just for JISC members in the UK. This paper aims to address these issues.
The paper reviews the major features, advantages and shortcomings of the promising initiatives of JISC ADAT, and recommends some essential content enhancements to increase its utility for the perennial and daunting task in academic, public, special and school libraries of selecting databases based on their source coverage and essential features of their software platform. Here only the journal coverage aspects are discussed.
JISC ADAT is a promising idea, and indeed JISC is the organisation in the UK that can handle it. However, it still would not suffice, as users would need to learn about the depth of coverage of each journal by the databases, not just about the time span of coverage, and in particular the gaps which may have very different implications. It should show the number of records taken from the journals in the specific database. For nearly 100,000 journals, it seems to be impossible to do, but it could be limited to the active journals, and the process could be automated by a series of macros launching federated searching using the existing journal names and/or ISSNs, and visualising the hit counts in tiny sparkline graphs in a very compact way to make the differences in the real coverage of journals by various databases really stand out.
The paper offers insights into the JISC ADAT, outlining its virtues and vices.
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