The Partnership for
Higher Education in Africa


Coalition of South African Libraries Evaluation Criteria

The Coalition of South African Libraries (COSALC) Evaluation Criteria may be useful to your to your institution. COSALC recommends completing a separate table for each journal or database that is being evaluated.

Title of database
Subjects covered

Determine the priority of each question, as follows:
1 = Absolute requirement
2 = Non-absolute requirement
3 = "Nice to have" but not required

Please evaluate each database with relation to the experience of your own institution. To be assessed on a scale of 1-4, as follows:
1 = Poor
2 = Sufficient/Moderate
3 = Good
4 = Excellent

Content Analysis Priority Y/N 1 2 3 4 Remarks
Appropriate for the support of teaching, research and scholarship in science & technology              
Peer reviewed?              
Consistency with print version (are reviews, illustrations, etc. omitted?)              
Length of backfiles available (preferably 5 years or more).              
Additional costs if backfiles are added subsequently?              

Are any titles embargoes?

Are embargoed titles listed?              
Are these lists accessible to the user?              
Timeliness of updates. How quickly are new issues made available?              
Years of coverage: are there any gaps in coverage?              
Does the publisher remove back issues from the site after a certain period?              
Is the database accurate? e.g. input/jourhnal errors              
Does the database duplicate what is already available in your library?              
Is there a list of journals indexed for the databvase?              
Is it accessible and regularly updated?              


Access Y/N 1 2 3 4 Remarks
24 x 7 access via high specification stable platform, with stable URLs?            
Unlimited viewing, downloading and printing in agreement with copyright law?            
Have you seen a copy of the licence agreement?            
Can ILL be done from the database?            
Can articles be used in course reserves?            
Can articles be used in electronic course reserves?            

Multiple forms of access should be possible-IP address and:

  • user name/password
  • walk in users
Conformance to Web Accessibility Initiative ( and the use of open standards wherever possible            
Are specific browsers or non-standard plug-ins needed (e.g. Flash) for any of the material?            
Search and display mechanisms must clearly enable identification of format or content (e.g. ASCII text, images, sound files, etc.)            
Is there a choice of PDF and HTML formats?            
Are other appropriate formats supported (e.g. Postscript and Latex)?            
Notification of discountination/cancellation of any journals offered, with credit as appropriate            
Delivery of high levels of concurrency without degrading service quality            
Willingness to link to other publishers, abstract and index databases            
Availability of MARC records            


Archiving Y/N 1 2 3 4 Remarks
Archival copy to be preserved by licensee for use in perpetuity            
Will all the content be archived or only selective parts?            
What measures are in place to ensure uninterrupted access to the site (e.g. mirror sites, backup copies of data)?            
Perpetual access to archive on expiry of subscription?            


Appearance and Product Structure Y/N 1 2 3 4 Remarks
Is there a main menu or feature that outlines all the functions clearly?            
Is the product browser independent?            
Is the layout clear?            
Is the speed/response time acceptable?            
Are there clear navigational links from all pages?            
Screen layout/use of colour/buttons clear?            
Special features (e.g. links)            
Content (clear details of what is included-titles, years, issues, etc.)            
Is the chronology clear?            


Search Capabilities Y/N 1 2 3 4 Remarks
Obvious how to start search?            
Basic searches (keyword/author/title/subject/thesaurus)            
Advanced searching            
Boolean searching            
Proximity operators            
Phrase searching            
Field searching            
Limiting (e.g. by year, publication type, language, full text, other)?            
Combining search sets            
Modify a search (without rekeying)            
Can you narrow/widen a search?            
Can you return to the search after printing a citation/article?            
Can you see a list of searches done so far?            
Is multifile (broadcast) searching possible?            
If so, is duplicating of results possible?            
Can searches be stopped/cancelled at any time?            


Full-text Options Y/N 1 2 3 4 Remarks
Explanation of partial contents for user (e.g. omits tables or pictures)            
Are page images completely legible? How are graphics/images handled?            
Is text in format that supports both text and graphics (e.g. HTML, PDF)?            
Are multiple image formats provided (browsing/detailed viewing)?            
Is there a document outline allowing user to jump to specific page?            
Link to references, appendices, etc.?            


Display/Save/Print and Export Functions Y/N 1 2 3 4 Remarks
Is there a choice of formats for display (brief/full/user-defined)?            
Sort options available (alphabetic/chronological/other?            
Easy to scroll through hits (from list to single record to full-text)?            
Can "useful" records be marked for printing/saving?            
Able to specify format for printing (e.g. full, citation)            
Can you save to disk or email (pages/parts of pages/full documents)?            
Easy to move between citation and full-text?            
Can oversize documents be scaled down for printing?            

Support Y/N 1 2 3 4 Remarks
Does the database suffer recurring slow response periods or down time?            
Does the vendor undertake to maintain an adequate infrastructure to support demand on the database?            

Is technical assistance given promptly?

  • by telephone
  • by email or online
  • visits
Online tutorial available?            

Is training provided?

  • individual
  • workshops
  • regularly
  • at a cost
Availability of any brochures and training materials?            

Help Facility Y/N 1 2 3 4 Remarks
Are there any help screens?            
Are they easily accessible/plain English?            
Context specific            
Good examples            
Detailed and clear            
Are there any error messages?            


General Y/N 1 2 3 4 Remarks
Facilities for badging must be permitted            
Multiyear agreement            
Free trial period            
High quality usage statistics, conforming to the emerging work of the PALS Usage Statistics Working Group and the ICOLC Guidelines (see            
Are the usage statistics easy to retrieve?            

Are they regularly available?

  • monthly
  • quarterly
  • annually
Can the usage statistics be user defined?            
Help desk service (perated 24 x 7)?            


Pricing Remarks
Is consortium pricing available?  
With or without separate invoicing for individual institutions?  
What approach is followed within the consorium pricing?  
Is it flexible?  
How many simultaneous users are included in the consortium price?  
Are individual databases available to individual institutions?  
Does the consortium have to agree on a suite of databases (all or nothing)?  
How does the price compare with other similar packages?  


Additional Comments/observations


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