Database printing. Why I don't. Why you shouldn't.
If you've done much reading on this site, you know that I have
donated my techie skills to several schools. In the process, I have
uncovered a fair number of situations in which databases could be
valuable tools to save time and manage information. But this will not
happen without a clear understanding of what the database can do and
some SERIOUS rethinking about how a computer user gets work done.
Through a series of real life tales, I will explain why you, only
very selectively, print an entire database. Don't get me wrong. There
are some very compelling reasons for printing from a database. I
print labels. I print reports. I print selected records even. BUT I
DO NOT print an entire database, nor should you.
1. Good databases are always changing
The first big database project I did for a school was a database
to catalogue their software collection. There were a small number of titles
available. As time went buy the parent volunteers grew this
collection substantially. Eventually the collection numbered in the
hundreds. It would be a terrible waste of paper to print this
collection. On a monthly basis, new titles were contributed. The
printed database immediately becomes outdated.
The digital copy of the database was easily kept current by the
parent volunteers or the library staff. A printed database could be searched by title because it was in alphabetical order by title. But it could not be searched by age, description, author/company, platform, number, ... you get the idea.
2. Good databases facilitate searching.
Once you print a database it is fixed in that format and that
order. To locate a record the user must leaf through the pages
looking for the record they want. With luck, the person who set the
order of the organization of the papers chose criteria that made the
search simple. But there is not much luck in printed databases. Think
of the times you have searched for something in the a business phone
number directory. If your criteria does not match the placement
assigned by the print directory creator, you can be very frustrated.
Example: Garden vrs. Landscape vrs. Horticulture vrs. Plants.
A digital database allows the user to search using one or more
criteria. Popup menus and value lists can add even more efficiency to
a search. Search engines are simply a doorway to use to search the massive database of the Internet.
You would not want to print an Internet search engine's database, believe me! (NetCraft reports that as of 2007 there are 149,784,002 web sites.)
3. Good databases can create subsets by the users criteria.
Consider the software titles database I described earlier. Suppose
a 4th grade teacher would like to see what titles would be relevant
to a unit on nature study. Our database had popup menus to choose
science and another for grade. Rather than paging through all the
pages for 4th grade or science, she can just set the two criteria and
view the results in a click.
This may seem like a small convenience. So consider a science fair with students from 7 elementary schools plus local home schoolers and
the town's parochial school invited to participate. There are hundreds of kids involved. The event is
organized by grade. The PTO of each school would like a report of the name, subject, and result for their students. This is easily accomplished using a find or report feature in the database.
4. Good databases will empower you.
I see your skepticism. Oh Ye of little faith. Explore what a computer based database can do to save you time and improve your life and work.
Make your own labels | Make a Certificate for each person | Manage an event with many participants
Track the value of your Book/Music/DVD
collection | Sort volunteers
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©2001 Cynthia O'Hora All rights reserved.
Posted 1/2001 The material in this site is copyrighted and may not be
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