The Migration from CD-ROM to WWW:
Public Service Benefits and Challenges

Benefits and Challenges for Users


  1. Database access from anywhere. Stand-alone CD-ROMs or locally networked CD-ROMs require the user to go to a specific workstation, building or campus. Remote access with web-based databases is a vast improvement over remote access with CD-ROMs.

  2. Web based systems provide links to other information - catalogs, e- journals, web sites.

  3. Web based databases present a more uniform and familiar (for WWW users) interface Web based databases generally require memorizing fewer tricks/F-Key-strokes/Ctrl-Key-strokes. Instead users operate on a forms based interface with dropdown menu choices and clickable options.

  4. Web based databases are updated more frequently - more up-to-date.


  1. Web based databases can run slowly (though increased bandwidth/ERL-server has greatly improved this problem) --- Note CD-ROM based system can crash!

Benefits and Challenges for Library Services, Education and Public Relations


  1. With web based databases it is generally easier to demonstrate the similarities between different systems - especially when they look and operate in a similar fashion.

  2. Can easily provide instruction or give demonstrations at remote locations.

  3. Web based databases ideal for distance education.

  4. Bundled web databases - e.g. SilverPlatter - allow for searching across databases.


  1. Faculty (and students) not quite sure how to deal with the Internet as simultaneous research pipeline and purveyor of second-rate information (or even misinformation).

  2. Web format makes everything look similar . thus a "research article" looks like a "news article" looks like "web junk" to the uninitiated student.

  3. Must still trouble shoot for remote access (proxy server) - though not as complicated with web databases as with CD-ROM.

  4. With web based databases there is now the question of appropriate/inappropriate use of research workstations (e-mail, chat rooms, pornography, etc.)

  5. Enhanced remote access to more straightforward databases means we may see (are seeing) fewer students conducting research within the library workstation area - and receiving fewer reference questions too. Does this mean research is now intuitively obvious? Are students selecting the best tools or simply the easiest to use?

Benefits and Challenges for Library Technology


  1. CD-ROMs have been overtaken by developments in computing, namely, client-server technology, which predicates a two-tier system in which the user interface is separate from the underlying database system. This makes client-server systems more flexible for a widely dispersed user community and more suitable for one that is primarily PC based.

    The design of user interfaces for use with Web browsers represented a significant advance for client-server systems, in that they provided universal access to the user interface without any special setup apart from the installation of a Web browser. This essentially extended the client-server model to a three-tier system with universal access.

    Originally, CD-ROM databases were intended as single user resources. While some progress was made in finding ways to network them, most of the networking technologies were cumbersome to implement and maintain. In the face of the development of Internet based technologies, networking CD-ROMs has simply not progressed very far.

  2. If problems with CD-ROM network must call on library tech staff - if problems with Internet databases must call vendor. Benefits - less stress on library tech staff. Challenges - vendors might be less responsive.


  1. Security issues - how to protect a more open web based system from the downloading of unwanted files, viruses, and malicious attacks and at the same time allow workstations and the students and librarians who utilize these workstations enough operability.

  2. Again must still troubleshoot for remote access (proxy server) - though not as complicated with web databases as with CD-ROM. Requires ongoing communication between Information Technologies and Reference Departments concerning problems with proxy access - as there is a constant evolution of operating systems, Internet providers, databases, and security restrictions (fire walls).

Comments: Jerry V. Caswell or Chris Neuhaus
Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa
1227 W. 27th St., Cedar Falls, IA 50613-3675
Revised: 21 May 2002