Like many of you, we had to scramble this past year to deal with the change in the statewide database license, and ended up maintaining our Ebscohost subscription alongside the new Gale subscription, at dramatically increased cost. We have been reviewing use and usability of the two platforms this year to inform budgeting for the coming fiscal year (as in, do we continue to maintain our Ebscohost subscription?). Part of that process was a survey of students regarding usability and usefulness of the two platforms, and a survey of faculty regarding what journals are most important to them to have fulltext online with a comparison to the Gale and Ebscohost title lists. Given that these results are not terribly scientific and are specific to our institution, I share a summary of those results here for your interest. The final paragraph would be most important for those not wanting to read the entire text. These results have been shared with both Gale and Ebsco.
Summary of Gale/Ebscohost survey results
NCU conducted a survey of students regarding their perceptions of ease of use and usefulness of results of the Gale and Ebscohost database suites. NCU also conducted a survey of faculty’s most important journals to have available online in fulltext and compared that list with title lists from Ebscohost and Gale. Those results are briefly summarized here.
95 students (of approximately 550 total student headcount) completed the student survey, including undergraduates, evening adult degree completion students, and graduate students. Specific classes were targeted rather than a general student-wide survey. 82 of those responding indicated they had used Ebscohost. 19 indicated they had used Gale. All 19 who used Gale had also used Ebscohost. Students were asked to rank “ease of use” and “usefulness of results” on 5-point Likert scales, with 5 representing “very easy” and “very useful” respectively. For Ebscohost ease of use responses averaged 3.51, with a mode of 4. Gale responses averaged 3.42 with a mode of 3. For usefulness of results Ebscohost responses averaged 3.42 with a mode of 4, and Gale responses averaged 3.11 with a mode of 3.
Faculty were asked to list the top 5 journals for their discipline and rank them by how important it was to have them in fulltext online, from 1-5 with 5 being “vital.” Eleven titles received a rank of 5. Ten of those titles are available fulltext in Ebscohost. Two of those titles are available fulltext in Gale, both also found in Ebscohost. Nineteen titles were ranked 4 “important to have online.” Four of those titles were available in the base Ebscohost package (an additional 2 were available in a separately purchased Ebscohost database not part of the statewide database license package). Gale included 2 of these titles, the same 2 not available in the Ebscohost package but available in the separately purchased database. Combining titles ranked 4 or 5, Ebscohost contains fulltext for 14 of 30 titles; Gale contains 4 of 30 titles.
For access to journal titles important for NCU faculty to have in fulltext online, Ebscohost is clearly superior to Gale. For NCU student perceptions of usefulness and ease of use, there is a slight preference for Ebscohost on both questions, though the small sample size of Gale users and small difference in averaged results puts the validity of these results in question. The differences in mode lead to a cautious conclusion that students may find Ebscohost somewhat easier to use and somewhat more useful in results obtained.
For the record, we will be recommending maintaining our Ebscohost subscription. Whether we are able to will depend on the budgeting process, which we are just preparing for.
Steve Silver, library director, NCU