What Is a Database?

da⋅ta⋅base (dā'tə-bās', dāt'ə-) 

n. A collection of data arranged for ease and speed of search and retrieval.* 

A database is simply a collection of related organized information. At the Kalamazoo Public Library when we refer to a database we are usually referring to a searchable online product that provides access to a huge collection of published information. KPL buys subscriptions to these databases allowing our patrons access. Over 70 different databases are made available to our patrons covering an incredible variety of subjects. Some of these databases allow you to access the information from outside of the library while others are restricted to use within the library only, look for the (Home Access) designation to know which allow outside access.  

What information can I find in a database that I can't find using the internet?

There is some overlap between what databases provide access to and what is available for free on the internet, but much of the content in our databases is unique and not available elsewhere online. This, plus the ease of finding the information using a structured database compared to searching the vast internet makes using a database a much more efficient method for finding certain information. Full text or citations to both academic and popular journal and magazine articles, government documents, essays and reference book entries, multimedia content and more are all searchable using the databases KPL provides access to. 

Why shouldn’t I just use Google?

Google and other internet search engines are incredibly useful tools for organizing and searching the staggering amounts of information available on the Internet. Yet Google and other search engines may not always be the right tool for the job at hand. Databases provide information; much of it in the desirable formats listed above (magazine and journal articles, government information, essays, ect.), that has been preselected for its quality and authority, while an internet search will give you everything the search engine finds across the entire internet using the terms used in the search. This requires the searcher to play a larger role in deciding the relevance of the information returned by their search. With a database the relevance is preset by the subject focus of the database.