The “undergrad” checkbox

A colleague and I were chatting this morning about the freaky stuff that undergrads often request through Inter-Library Loan, often not realizing what exactly it is that they’re requesting.  The most common example is Dissertation Abstracts, where if they request the item through ILL, what they get in return is…the abstract of the dissertation.  Which they probably already have, since it’s included in the database.  And that’s assuming the dissertation was even completed which, you know, sometimes doesn’t happen.

We decided that in addition to the “peer-reviewed” checkbox that appears in many databases (EBSCO, I’m looking at you), there ought to be an “undergrad” checkbox, which filters out all the weird stuff that database providers throw into their silos to enhance their stats for numbers of titles indexed, etc.  It would weed out:

  • Dissertation Abstracts
  • Unpublished conference papers
  • Heck, any conference paper, but especially those given at conferences outside of North America
  • Book reviews
  • And, optionally, it would limit to items in English.

Sure, some doctoral-level researcher somewhere could probably use those items, so there’s no reason to exclude them from the database. (And database providers would no more consider removing them from their databases than libraries would consider de-accessioning books. Ahem.)  But undergrads have no idea what these things are, and are so often disappointed when they wait a week for something to arrive through ILL and then see what it is.

Somehow, I don’t think the major database vendors are going to grab this idea and run with it.