Something disconcerting happened to me the other day. After all these years of experience in teaching students search skills, I found myself red in the face when two databases misbehaved while I was conducting searches to teach 50 students.

It was at two separate library sessions, actually. I have used these databases and done searches on them countless times. They are in my blood. You cut me, you will see strings of keywords and Boolean operators trickling out. And however confident I am, I always go through the searches one more time just before the library session. Call me kiasu but this little practice turns a switch on in my head and I can hear the pleasant humming of a mechanism rearing to go. After that, every thing will fall into place. I will know exactly what to do, what to say and above all, to think on my feet.

So I prepped up. The databases performed beautifully. I was ready. Then, right on cue, Somebody-Up-There thought my library sessions could do with some fun.

The first database allowed me access, no error messages, no problem. After I executed the search, for the next 60 seconds, it kept flashing “Loading…Loading…” I knew right then that the library session had to end early. For the first time ever, I mean, ever, the database gave me a message that said, “An error was detected, please consult your Administrative Manager.” Thankfully, I had the search down in the handout that I had distributed to the students. But I could not show them the wonderful lot of market research reports that gave market segments, ranking of brands, sales volume, consumer patterns, etc. A perfect anti-climax.

The second database that acted up was more insidious. There was no error message. No problem with response time. But when I showed the results of my search I realized it was not searching the Publication Name field at all. It was taking random words in the journal names I had inserted in the search box and doing a keyword search instead. My mind went, “What the ****?” Anyway, it was a split second before I did a recovery. I don’t think the students noticed – well, I hope not!

Oh yes, the Singapore representatives of these databases heard from me alright. It was the peak of semester, with assignments due every other day. No database is going to play hardball with me.

Note: Please be assured that the Singapore reps survived and the two databases have since behaved themselves.

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