One of the things I've struggled with doing well is the database demonstration. It's easy to do a rote example and forget the role that sparking interest plays in learning retention when you're tasked with doing a demo. Over the past quarter, I've had the opportunity to do three database demonstrations and I think in each case I've learned something new about how to maintain engagement both for me and for my audience.
Demonstrating Failure. For a Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies class in January, I was asked to go through two of the guides in GWSS and to talk about searching finding aids. For this session, I opted not to prep a specific example but instead to feel out a search based on what the room talked about before my demo. Prior to the session, I had taken time to experiment in a couple different ways with searching so that I could respond well to whatever prompt got thrown my way. In the one-shot, we ended up stumbling on a search with very limited results. This was facially frustrating because, of course, I wanted to be able to show the depth of our collection, but for me it's important to remember that more often than not that's what the research process looks like. You usually get limited returns and have to figure out either how to find better results or why certain voices are missing. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I didn't really get a chance to go too deep into that issue, but it's a healthy reminder that "failure" is ok in front of an audience.
Demonstrating Place. I also had the opportunity to demonstrate Readex's Congressional Serial Set database with a slight twist. Both of the times I got to roll through the different ways to engage the database I was presenting to other librarians. Without the frame of a class assignment, I made a three-point plan to get through a couple of the ways to engage with the database. I started with a citation search. We get a lot of reference questions, especially on chat, that look like "where do I find xyz thing the citation looks like this: ____", so this was something that the audience would need to know at some point. After that, I demonstrated advanced search by showing how to find maps and images of Mt. Rainier National Park and how to use the browse function by looking at the treaties signed by the territorial government with the tribes whose land the UW sits on. Working in a land acknowledgment to the database demonstration was about accomplishing both inclusion and justice priorities but also about making government documents immediately relevant. Looking at the browse search function this way also allowed me to gesture to what was missing and to the fact that the language we use today is not always the language used by primary sources.
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