Dating the unpopular database

Wrist corsage
By Tai Gray from Provo, USA (Corsage  Uploaded by France3470) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Discovery sites (for ex. OneSearch) have a database recommendation feature.  At times this feature nicely helps us focus our research.  Sometimes, though, it suggests only the popular kids as information prom dates.  We can overlook a less popular database with potentially valuable articles.  Andrew (2014) discusses this idea in a blog post about serendipity and online research.

The post (2014) links to Fine and Deegan’s definition of serendipity: “the unique and contingent mix of insight coupled with chance” (What is Serendipitous? section, para. 1).  To use my prom analogy, the insight would be openness to an unpopular prom date.  In research the insight is an openness to unusual connections among ideas.

The rest of the post (2014) discusses new tools that could better foster serendipity.  Such tools include Serendip-o-matic.  While I invite you to try them, my point is less about a tool than about a willingness to seek unusual connections.  Even the ACRL Framework (2015) mentions “mental flexibility” and “serendipitous methods of information gathering” (Searching as Strategic Exploration section, para. 3).

My prom metaphor may leave much to be desired.  Still, we can have a good time with an unpopular date–or an unpopular database.


Andrew, L. (2014, July 16). I’m feeling lucky: Can algorithms better engineer serendipity in research–or in journalism? [Blog post].  Retrieved from

Association of College & Research Libraries. (2015).  Framework for information literacy for higher education. Retrieved from ACRL website :