FirstSearch recently made some changes to their databases. Essentially, they are cosmetic, but it does make navigating the various databases much easier and search functions which are available are much more apparent.  Most changes are the same for all the databases in FirstSearch, but there are slight variations.

Databases included: PapersFirst, ArticleFirst, ECO, ERIC, GPO, Proceedings, UnionLists, World Almanac and World Cat.  I found using all the different databases very instructive and find I use them more than before.

Navigation Bars and Icons: The old navigation bar in the left margin has been replaced with a series of easily read navigation buttons or tabs across the top of the page.  While some of these navigation tabs and buttons change at different stages of a search, it does make various options fairly obvious.  “Home”, “Databases” and “Searching” are always present across the top.  The tabs in the line below will change in relation to a current search.

Help: Help buttons are prominent.  Clicking on them brings up a help window related to that point in a search–beginning a search, search results, etc.

Searching: The ability to search across up to 3 databases at once is now more evident.  By clicking on “Databases” tab, or if one selects the list of databases from the “GO TO” drop down menu, the user is informed they can select up to 3 databases.

Searching by Topic: Databases can be selected by topic from either the “Databases” tab or using the GO TO box and clicking on “Databases by Topic”.  I found the topics sometimes did not include all the databases that might apply to that subject.  However, a student working on a paper might find them useful to get started.  Topics are very broad, e.g., General; Education; Life Sciences, etc.  Whether using the database list or the list by topics, the list provided has a checkbox to the left.  Click the box of the one(s) desired, then click Select.  A search box then appears for searching across those databases.  Results for each database are posted at the top in large type and boxes which should look very familiar to anyone used to the old system.

Also part of the new look are the much more visible icon buttons.  Most of these are self evident as to meaning, for example, an envelope for email.  For most of them, there is also a label just below the icon.  Depending on the database, some are not as obvious and a mouse over usually brings up the meaning.  Those buttons change, depending on whether one is in basic, advanced or expert search mode. Often with Keyword searches, a box appears to the right which supports browsing topics.  Since truncation is limited in FirstSearch, this browse feature helps the user select a term to search and thereby avoid the problem with truncation limitations.

Some features unique to a database: Hot Topics in WorldCat; Thesaurus (Subjects button) in ERIC; Browse Journals in ArticleFirst; and, the 4 additional titles available for search in WorldAlmanac.

The Basic Search screen, the usual default, is much better for simple searches.  Instead of clicking on Author or Title or Keyword, there is a labeled box to fill in for each of those.  No Boolean searching in Basic Search.

The Advanced Search is set up for Boolean searches using drop down menus for “And”, “Or”, “Not”.  Advanced also offers choices in the drop down menus of the search boxes. Of course, these choices vary with each database.

Expert searching is like command searching and also allows proximity searching.  A series of help boxes is at the bottom of the search page to help an expert with usual commands.

The option of limiting to full text is a nice feature students will use.  This appears at the bottom of the search boxes, whether Basic, Advanced or Expert.  A quirk of the database list is that this does not apply to all databases even when a lot of full-text is available. Right now it applies to ArticleFirst, ECO and ERIC.

Results usually also prominently include links to “Articles like this”.  Or, there is prominently displayed at the top the offer of help with refining a search.

Appearance: Colors are different and not as bright as the previous version.  Each library or individual can reset the colors if they do not like the default.  Just click on Options and a choice of four-color palettes is available.

Print size is very good. Easy on the eyes and big enough for students to read from a classroom projection.  Compare ERIC type here to other versions available on other databases.

Prominent on all screens is the branding with the campus name and at UC Irvine it has a link to the Ask A Librarian feature.  UC-eLinks are obvious after a search is completed and a full record displayed.  The listing of titles located through a search does not display the URL for free resources in the short form of the list.  It is only in the full record display that this becomes visible, usually far down in the record.

Let your UC FirstSearch database liaisons know what you think about these changes and anymore that might be possible to help library users.  My review has already prompted me to make suggestions and I got back a reply within 24 hours.  The UC CDL FirstSearch liaisons are:

WorldCat: Laura Galvan-Estrada, UCSD
GPO: Kay Collins, UCI
PapersFirst: Bob Heyer-Gray, UCD
ProceedingsFirst: Bob Heyer-Gray, UCD