Best Databases 2011: Librarians Decide Which Databases Make the Grade

Digital advances begun at the outset of the 21st century have significantly eased the burden on researchers, who no longer have to travel great distances to see topic-relevant source material. Dissertations, journals, documents, and photos that have been preserved digitally are available internationally. Moreover, with the right access codes, such images and data are available for viewing at any time. Certainly, electronic developments are valuable also to librarians, who now rely much less on interlibrary loan and can serve a much wider variety of patron requests immediately.

Still, not all databases are created equal. Some are a cut above, whether we’re speaking in terms of aesthetics, scope, or functionality. Many have made startling advances since LJ‘s first E-Reference Ratings articles appeared in 2008. To learn which resources have emerged as the most remarkable tools in a sea of digital research options, we polled a group of librarians and LJ reviewers to choose the best of 2011 (see our list of contributors on page 18). Many of them were involved in the original E-Reference Ratings. Here are their picks.

BEST OVERALL

Credo Reference
Credo; www.credoreference.com

Looking for material from the Library of Congress? Elsevier? Edinburgh University Press? Credo Reference hosts more than 550 reference titles from those and other respected houses. Jennifer Michaelson says it’s the best database she uses, with straightforward search and results pages. The database can be linked to the library’s OPAC and to other resources. Credo also offers several unusual features: a Gadget bar on the homepage, for example, with search boxes labeled Define, Person, Images, Pronunciation, Crossword Solver, and Conversions (e.g., temperature, area). Best of all, though, says Lura Sanborn, are the database’s Topic Pages gathering materials by subject, which adds accessibility options to a resource that was awesome to begin with. Christine Sharbrough nominated the collection for Best Integration of Media and Best Integration of External Content. I love the way [Credo] allows us to pull together catalog entries, videos, journal articles, and images from the web for patrons, she says. That’s tremendously helpful in finding esoteric subject matter. She also praises Credo’s Mind Map feature for narrowing and broadening topics, helping students to visualize their topic and identify keywords. The upcoming Credo literati is an information literacy add-on that includes subject-specific tutorials and videos, customization that reflects the language an institution uses for information literacy instruction, pre- and postassessment surveys, and library marketing programs.

RUNNERS-UP
Biography in Context
Gale Cengage Learning;
www.gale.cengage.com/InContext/bio.htm

Michael Bemis says that Gale’s Biography in Context combines ease of use, spot-on results, and authoritative sources. Lots of subscription databases have torn a page from Google’s notebook, and Biography in Context is one of them, he says. Gale offers a stripped-down search box in which users can enter names in different ways or even search using only partial names. With upwards of half a million notable personalities in every conceivable field of endeavor‚Ķit’s almost impossible not to find the individual you’re looking for, says Bemis. Power users will enjoy the database’s advanced search features, which allow the use of Boolean logic and filtering by format, publication date, and lexile range. This flexibility, states Bemis, is backed up with no fewer than 178 reference titles [as well as] film clips, audio files, and hyper links to related websites. Lura Sanborn cites Biography in Context as Best in Media, since it has moved beyond its excellent reference material to add radio, images, video, journal, magazine, and newspaper content. Gale Cengage’s biographical material is supplemented by its free Who Said What app, which allows users to create custom lists of people and track what they say on various topics. It links to local public library resources via the GPS-based AccessMyLibrary.

Fold3
Fold 3; www.fold3.com

Fold3 went live in 2007 as Footnote, offering more than five million military rec ords, documents, and stories. The company has since partnered with the National Archives and the Library of Congress to offer one of the most extensive portals to primary-source documents now available. These are no simple historical text transcriptions; they are instead high-resolution, full-color document and photograph scans that permit magnified viewing. Fold3 currently boasts well over 74 million digitized documents and images, such as War of 1812 pension applications, stunning documentary photographs, and even original Civil War battle sketches. Barb Kundanis calls Fold3 the most fun for genealogists and praises its snappy format, digitized original documents, and [inclusion of] military records.

Web of Knowledge
Thomson Reuters; wokinfo.com

Web of Knowledge provides access to 15 citation databases such as Current Contents Connect, Chinese Science Citation Database, MEDLINE, and BIOSIS Citation Index and ways to analyze the citations found in them. The individual files can be subscribed to separately. The academic librarian who nominated the service considers it unique and essential for research. Other resources are trying to emulate the ‚Äòtimes cited’ model, but frequently this means ‚Äòtimes cited within this database.’ Another plus: Web of Knowledge’s new ResearcherID, which allows authors to create a professional profile and claim authorship of their works that appear in the database.

Best new database

The Vogue Archive
ProQuest; www.proquest.com/en-US/catalogs/databases/detail/
vogue_archive.shtml

While it’s likely that this will be one of the most visually appealing databases created, the Vogue Archive is also one of the newest. The comprehensive issue database is a collaboration between Condé Nast and ProQuest. And, according to an August 4 article in the Los Angeles Times, Vogue publisher Susan Plagemann and editor in chief Anna Wintour are keeping the nature of the resource hush-hush until its official launch in December. Once live, the archive will make accessible over 400,000 high- resolution, full-color pages from issues dating back to 1892. It will also preserve every ad published, and these will be searchable by company name, a gold mine for students interested in historical branding techniques. Although the collection will cover only U.S. editions of the fashion glossy, updates are slated to occur monthly: as soon as issues appear on newsstands, their content will be fully accessible in the database.

best Content upgrade

American Song
Alexander Street Press; alexanderstreet.com/products/amso.htm

Last spring, American Song added 41 albums to its catalog, bringing its most recent digital LP total to 6,875, with 116,219 individual tracks. Browsing can be done by album, artist, ensemble, genre, instrument, or even historical event, offering authenticity and depth to both history lessons and period research. The recent upgrade includes two dozen releases from Daptone Records, the Brooklyn-based funk and soul independent label featuring Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings; along with The Budos Band, Charles Bradley, and the Menahan Street Band and tasty reissues like the Daktari’s Soul Explosion, says Bruce Connolly.

Greatest usability revamp

WestlawNext
Thomson Reuters;
west.thomson.com/westlawnext

WestlawNext, a revamp of Westlaw, is the database most used by Annette Haldeman. The legal research tool, which searches journals, law reviews, statutes, etc., and organizes them by category, was named the American Association of Law Libraries New Product of the Year for 2011. Compared to its predecessor, the database makes it much easier to narrow case searches, requires less thought for search strategies to achieve optimal results, and retrieves more relevant information. The search engine is intelligent, meaning that it learns over time which documents users download or read in full text and pushes those to the top of the results list, along with cases that are most frequently cited or discussed. Material uncovered by Westlaw Next can be sorted into folders that are sharable among researchers, even those outside the organization. The revamp boasts an attractive interface, and the database is intuitive enough to be used by both experienced searchers and laypersons alike.

RUNNER-UP
Ulrichsweb
ProQuest; www.serialssolutions.com/management/ulrichs/ulrichsweb

Not only are the giant hardcover serials listings of yore long gone, but the clunky database that replaced them in 1999 is a thing of the past, too. In 2010, Ulrich’s decided that the first iteration of its online presence was no longer working well enough to support the growth in the number of subscribers and the new ways in which the data was being used. Two years of research, as well as input from librarians, resulted in the material being indexed in new ways and the addition of more tools with which to explore it. New languages were added, too, so that speakers of 14 languages including Spanish, French, Chinese, and even Turkish can comfortably use the platform. The interface is now much cleaner; its single search box and advanced search options are particularly intuitive to use. Icons in the results list show which serials are refereed, available on the web, offer reviews, etc.

A growing trend in databases is for personalization options, and Ulrichsweb is on board, offering ways to run the same search repeatedly, for example. Searching using facets is available too, i.e., users are offered aspects of their search to explore‚ one handy such option is the open access facet, allowing cash-strapped libraries to find what’s available for free in a subject area and perhaps change their journal subscriptions accordingly. Trying to decide which journal database to buy? Ulrichsweb can help with that, as journal listings include information on which database(s) carry the title. Best of all, your library’s link resolver can be used to move from the Ulrichsweb listing to the library’s full-text periodical databases.

best niche product

Counseling and Psychotherapy Transcripts, Client Narratives,
and Reference Works

Counseling and Therapy in Video
Alexander Street Press; alexanderstreet.com/products/psychology.htm

The materials in this category challenge traditionally buttoned-up scholarly expectations. Counseling and Therapy in Video offers teaching guides to, and streaming footage of, therapy sessions, case consultations, lectures, and interviews, altogether showcasing more than 50 therapeutic approaches. Volume 2 of the collection, Alexander Street states, updates and expands upon the first collection, providing footage that concentrates on contemporary specialties such as child therapy and eating disorders. A companion resource, Counseling and Psychotherapy Transcripts, Client Narratives, and Reference Works, provides more than 2000 session transcripts and narratives such as diaries and memoirs. One academic librarian noted that the search interface could be more effective but that these resources provide access to interesting niche material that will be very useful for teaching, learning, and training purposes.

RUNNER-UP
Rock’s Backpages
Rock’s Backpages; rocksbackpages.com

Covering five decades of history, the 17,000 articles, interviews, and reviews that comprise Rock’s Backpages showcase rock journalism’s renegade spirit. Rock’s Backpages represents the gold standard of rock writing, says Bruce Connolly. It combines an irresistible lineup of classic fanzines‚ Punk, Trouser Press, Bomp, and Creem‚ with more mainstream staples of the popular music press, including Spin and Rolling Stone. British publications are also included, such as New Musical Express, Uncut, and Mojo, a magazine for which several members of the Backpages team have either edited or written. Additional temptations, says Connolly, include a discussion forum, audio interviews, writer profiles, and links to radio stations and rock-related websites. It’s an essential resource for modern and contemporary music libraries and even cultural studies collections.

Most ambitious in scope or content

Gale Virtual Reference Library
Gale Cengage Learning; www.gale.cengage.com/servlet/GvrlMS?msg=ma

Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL) provides encyclopedias and other ebooks on almost every subject, but there’s more‚ the 4200-plus titles in the database encompass material from 101 Featured Partners. These are divisions of Gale Cengage such as Lucent Books and Cengage Learning Asia as well as other publishers large and small, from ABC-CLIO to Ibercultura and from John Wiley & Sons to Rough Guides. The ambition doesn’t stop there‚ GVRL’s ReadSpeaker technology allows text to be read aloud, downloaded as MP3s, and translated on demand into 11 languages. The material, which is accessible by an unlimited number of simultaneous users, is cross-searchable with Gale Resource Centers and selected other periodical databases. The beauty of the database, says Lura Sanborn, is that it enables me to handpick a digital reference collection just like I am accustomed to doing with our printed collection. She adds, I am so ready to move to digital-only (or at least digital first) when it comes to our reference texts, and this Gale product does just that.

RUNNERS-UP

CQ Press Voting and Elections Collection
CQ Press; www.cqpress.com/product/CQ-Voting-and-Elections-Collection.html

The CQ Press Voting and Elections Collection provides an authoritative tool for understanding an extremely complex subject. Organized into six broad subject categories including presidential elections, political parties, and voter demographics, the database offers detailed information about, and commentary on, figures and political events. Regular links to primary-source material‚ campaign speeches, for example‚ easily link relevant topics for researchers. Bruce Connolly says, The inclusion of historical background provides the context that other resources often neglect. It’s a critical resource for assessing the behavior of voters, the activities of political parties, the waging of election campaigns, and the outcomes of state and national races.

Oxford Bibliographies Online
Oxford University Press; www.oup.com/online/us/obo/?view=usa

Also an LJ blogger, Cheryl LaGuardia described this resource when it launched last year as an online, born-digital library of discipline-based, selective guides to the core literature in various humanities and social science subjects (ow.ly/71goQ). Calling it a library rather than a database is exactly right. The resource consists of subject modules covering the literature on Atlantic history, biblical studies, Buddhism, classics, criminology, Islamic studies, medieval studies, philosophy, the Renaissance and the Reformation, and social work, each with 50 to 100 entries. This year will see an additional 12‚ 15 subject areas covered, such as communications, Latin American studies, music, political science, and psychology. Each collection has its own editor in chief and editorial board and includes core sources ranging from book chapters to whole monographs and from websites to archives. OpenURL linking leads from the listings to the full text of the recommendations. Since the material is scholarly, it will in turn include bibliographies of further resources, quickly launching students into the full range of quality materials on a given subject.

Oxford Dictionaries Pro
Oxford University Press; www.oxforddictionaries.com

With a lexicon now exceeding two billion words, this language resource is hard to beat in terms of scope. The database is divided into 20 major subject areas, including categories such as society, medicine, leisure, and the startlingly large segment, news, from which 24.4 percent of the database’s constituent words come. Subgroupings are then organized under each of these major categories. Since 2000, Oxford University Press’s language research program and the team responsible for updating the Oxford English Dictionary have regularly harvested new words and new vernacular usage from diverse areas of the web, such as message boards, blogs, and even archived chat room content. Yet words from printed texts, like journals, magazines, novels, fanzines, and technical manuals are also included. Over the course of several decades, Oxford will permit the tracking of usage trends, opening up an additional valence of information to cultural studies scholars and linguists.

University Press Scholarship Online
Oxford University Press;
www.universitypressscholarship.com

Oxford’s lofty aim with this newly launched resource is to grant full-text access to the best scholarly publishing from around the world, making disparately published scholarship easily accessible, highly discoverable, and fully cross-searchable. The database provides a collection of more than 7000 books and growing in 21 subject areas, including economics and finance, public health and epidemiology, business and management, physics, and law. In addition to Oxford, titles come from the presses of the American University in Cairo, Fordham University, Hong Kong University, and the universities of Florida and Kentucky. Oxford Scholarship Online (OSO), a similar product that offers only the publisher’s material, was a hit with users, and this new compendium adds to its functionality. For example, users can now download chapters as PDF documents that include QR codes linking to the relevant online content. Best of all, the service will soon be optimized for mobile access.

Most improved overall

NetLibrary
EBSCO; support.ebscohost.com/ebooks

Following EBSCO’s purchase of Net Library from OCLC in March 2010, search platforms were integrated in a way that allowed vastly increased user accessibility. With the completion of the ebook vendor’s content migration to EBSCOhost in July, users began to enjoy more rapid title location and many other practical enhancements. I was very excited when EBSCO took over NetLibrary, says Carrie Scarr, noting that EBSCO has brought more functionality, such as emailing, citing, and creating notes, and easy searches to the existing NetLibrary ebooks. Another marked improvement is the ability for users to view tables of contents before downloading full texts so that books are not tied up by browsers. Not only that‚ demand-triggered subscription upgrades will soon permit three or, ultimately, unlimited users for each title. Also exciting is that NetLibrary’s store of 300,000 ebooks and audiobooks will continue to grow by way of new EPUB uploads. Lura Sanborn recommends it for Greatest Usability Revamp; EBSCO’s changes did wonders for NetLibrary, she says.

Best in media

AccessScience
McGraw-Hill; accessscience.com

McGraw-Hill has long been known as a publisher of high-quality science materials. That expertise, as well as a knack for attractive yet simple integration of video, makes AccessScience a hit. The database’s multimedia includes images, animation, and video that Jennifer Michaelson explains is all readily available and accompanies search results where applicable. The multimedia features are backed up by a solid base of digitized print materials, most notably the publisher’s Encyclopedia of Science & Technology, 10th ed., but also research and definitions from the “McGraw-Hill Yearbooks of Science & Technology” and McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms and more than 2000 profiles from the Hutchinson Dictionary of Scientific Biography¬Æ. While the material is available to student users of the database, AccessScience also includes features that make teachers’ and librarians’ jobs easier. The Study Center houses images and illustrations that may be downloaded for use in PowerPoint presentations, as well as Flash tutorials and study guides, and the Librarian Resource Center pre sents such features as news, research tips and tools, and usage reports.

RUNNER-UP

Films on Demand
Films Media Group; digital.films.com

The Films on Demand database offers access to thousands of streaming videos and linked video collections. They can be accessed remotely so students can watch assigned material from dorms and professors can incorporate videos into lectures, whether in class or through a distance-learning interface. An administrative reporting system facilitates individual user bookmarking and quick links. Alec Sonsteby attests to the resource’s popularity and practicality. The moment we subscribed, faculty took off running with it, linking to many of its films in our course management system, he says. It’s easy to create permalinks and to watch individual clips or scenes. The sheer breadth of films available is breathtaking, covering numerous disciplines in higher education today. Films Media Group is also open to user needs and practical concerns. [It’s] responsive to and understanding about the need for captioning. Library faculty and other teaching faculty could not be happier with this resource.

Most unlikely hit

AccessEmergency Medicine
McGraw Hill;
www.accessemergencymedicine.com

Elizabeth R. Lorbeer makes heavy use of AccessEmergency Medicine with medical students. Demand for its e-textbooks, descriptions of techniques, narrated videos of professionals providing care, and a drug database that includes patient handouts in English and Spanish has been overwhelmingly strong, she says. Users consider this resource vital for continuing education and clinical care. The database’s attractive homepage offers access to valuable Council of Emergency Medicine Residency (CORD) videos that McGraw-Hill describes as focusing on uncommon presentations of common diagnoses and common presentations of uncommon diagnoses. Also available are updates to textbooks (so important in this field) and multimedia instructional material, such as an animation of how to intubate a patient. The database boasts multiple essential features for medical program directors, who can use the Custom Curriculum area to create and monitor medical rotations, post assignments and board-review quizzes, schedule rounds and other offline activities, and obtain usage reports by resident or rotation.

RUNNERS-UP

Digital National Security Archive
ProQuest/The National Security Archive at the George Washington University; nsarchive.chadwyck.com/marketing/index.jsp

The Digital National Security Archive (DNSA) offers the most current and inclusive collection of declassified government documents available in a single, digitally accessible location. Regularly updated with new files, the database now covers the period between 1945 and 2010 and incorporates more than 500,000 pages from 80,000 documents, thanks to the Freedom of Information Act. Thirty-six specific collections make up DNSA, which include documents on foreign policy related to, and intelligence about, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Iran, Nicaragua, the Philippines, South Africa, and Vietnam. Bruce Connolly commends the breadth and organization of the database’s content, saying, DNSA comprises images running the gamut of primary-source material‚ policy documents, presidential directives, White House communications, memos, diplomatic dispatches, notes on meetings, independent reports, briefing papers, email, confidential letters, and other items are all represented. Each is thoroughly indexed and abstracted. It’s one of those rare resources that is intrinsically interesting, with appeal extending well beyond disciplinary and academic interests.

Mango Languages
Mango Languages;
www.mangolanguages.com

Mango is a language-learning tool that emphasizes real-world situations and the importance of cultural insights as well as verbal skills. Its library edition offers more than 50 languages including Arabic (Levantine), Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, and ESL for speakers of various tongues. The courses come in two levels, basic or complete; both focus on conversation skills, but the complete course also offers grammar instruction and a greater range of vocabulary. The great thing about Mango is the range of languages that it offers as well as a really fun, easy, and intuitive user interface for using language, says Christine Sharbrough.

Most elegant

Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia Britannica;
www.britannica.com

There are two tiers to this site: free and premium. The free service delivers news, websites, multimedia, and editor blogs on myriad topics. It also packs in options such as subject and format searches, research tools from This Day in History to World Data Analyst, and spotlighted features from the company’s famed Encyclopedia Britannica. Premium subscribers also benefit from access to the full text of the online version of that work. Jennifer Michaelson says the material gains from a clear, visually appealing, uncluttered interface and excellent search functionality. The University of South Florida Polytechnic’s Diane Fulkerson cites Britannica’s unobtrusive inclusion of website links as a valuable enhancement to the publisher’s print content.

RUNNERS-UP
Literary Reference Center
EBSCO; www.ebscohost.com/public/literary-reference-center

Christine Sharbrough cannot say enough great things about Literary Reference Center, which is a literature student’s dream. The database offers thousands of plot summaries, synopses, and title overviews; literary criticism; author biographies and interviews; book reviews; and poems, short stories, and classic texts. In short, it provides a wealth of information for students doing author or biography reports, not to mention librarians performing readers’ advisory. The versatile database includes full text from works such as Merriam Webster’s Encyclopedia of Literature, Continuum Encyclopedia of American Literature, The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, and Beacham’s Research Guide to Biography and Criticism. Not only does the collection have a very classic and rich look, says Sharbrough, but I always find interesting tidbits about my favorite authors as well as information that piques my curiosity about writers I had yet to discover. By putting a bit of a human element to the authors, it deepens the understanding of their works.

Oxford Art Online
Oxford University Press;
www.oxfordartonline.com

Oxford Art Online (OAO) might also find a home under Most Ambitious, since it has become one of the most effective subscription tools for art-related research. Not only does it provide a gateway to Grove Art Online’s staggering 23,000 subject entries, 21,000 biographies, 500,000 bibliographic citations, 40,000 image links, and 5500 images, but the database also permits access to the 5000 subject entries and 500 image files that comprise the Oxford Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms, and the Oxford Companion to Western Art. Soon, the portal will provide full access to the celebrated Benezit Dictionary of Artists. Bruce Connolly extols the database’s luxuriant design that’s packed with information, striking images, and searching power. Its interface ‚Äòreads’ very cleanly and is as visually appealing as anything on the market. One caveat, however: OAO is so enthralling that it will actually require a certain amount of discipline on the part of researchers just to stay on task, says Connolly.

Best buy

ACLS Humanities E-Book
The American Council of Learned Societies;
www.humanitiesebook.org/intro.html

Super cheap with great content, says Lura Sanborn of a resource that provides digitized versions of more than 3300 books in the humanities, many of which are available for print on demand through the site. Subjects covered include Jewish studies, native peoples of the Americas, comparative/world history, film and media studies, folklore, literature, performance studies, political science, religion, and sociology. The collection is made available by the Amerian Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) in collaboration with 20 learned societies such as the African Studies Association and the Renaissance Society of America; more than 100 contributing publishers and many university presses; and librarians at the University of Michigan’s Scholarly Publishing Office. Around 500 titles are added annually. Recent additions are as narrowly focused as Erik Fügedy’s The Elefánthy: The Hungarian Nobleman and His Kindred and as broad as Dixon Wheeler’s A Short History of Film. The default search here is by phrase; materials uncovered are presented in page-image, text, or PDF formats.

RUNNERS-UP
Auto Repair Reference Center
EBSCO; www.ebscohost.com/public/auto-repair-reference-center

EBSCO’s Auto Repair Reference Center (ARRC) eliminates the allocation of public library funds to replace rapidly obsolescent print guides. Especially valuable to patrons preferring DIY repair are the 37,000 auto entries detailing specification and maintenance schedules for models produced since 1945. The database’s practical value is further enhanced by 180,000 wiring diagrams and 110,000 service bulletins. ARRC comes with high recommendations from Carrie Scarr. Auto Repair Reference Center is well worth the cost, especially for small or medium-sized libraries that are unable to purchase auto repair manuals, she maintains. Scarr also applauds ARRC’s user-friendly interface, explaining that its easy-to-use navigation provides just enough information for automobile repair.

CIAO: Columbia
International Affairs Online

Columbia University Press; http://www.ciaonet.org/

CIAO provides access to full-text versions of ongoing, university-based research, foundation-funded projects, conference proceedings, economic indicators, and subject-relevant books, journals, and policy briefs from 75 institutions. This wide-ranging array of content‚ dating from 1991 onward‚ makes CIAO among the most comprehensive resources available for international affairs research. As a modestly priced, highly focused collection of research-quality international relations material, says Bruce Connolly, CIAO is one of the true gems in the e-resources market. Working papers from each contributing institution are regularly updated, while three dozen case studies offer extensive scholarly analysis of and bibliographic citations for topics as diverse as Irish Troubles Since 1916 and Iraq and the Global War on Terrorism. CIAO also offers syllabi and ten course packages for teaching broad international subjects such as Landmines and Globalization. CIAO’s contributing institutions make the resource one-stop shopping for researchers. The new alliance with the Economist Intelligence Unit, with its added political and economic country data, says Connolly, makes CIAO a fairly complete resource in and of itself.

Best integration of external content

SAGE Reference Online
SAGE; http://www.sage-ereference.com/

I absolutely love SAGE Reference Online, states an academic librarian about a resource that was a 2007 LJ Best Reference title. The database gathers digitized versions of SAGE’s handbooks and subject guides that cover government, political science, education, health, and more. Individual titles in the database are available through the Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL) for purchase, and they may also be bought as part of collections through SAGE or wholesalers. The contents of the approximately 300 titles can be browsed by discipline and/or individual title or searched using keywords or more specific terms. I have long been a fan of SAGE’s print ‚ÄòResearch Methods’ titles, says the librarian, adding that SAGE Reference Online puts them on my desktop.

RUNNER-UP
World News Digest
Facts On File; www.fofweb.com/SellSheets/520305.pdf

With today’s assignments increasingly asking for primary sources and Internet news often confusing and unreliable, Diane Fulkerson says that World News Digest is a must for students obtaining background information on a topic. Its multiple search options, so intuitive for even novice users, provide access to material as current as the past hour and covering as far back as November 1940. Domestic and international newspaper articles, profiles of prominent figures, and issues in the news form the backbone of the offerings, while useful extras include Ahead in Time and Back in Time links for a complete picture of an event and full-text content from the publisher’s World Almanac¬Æ. Material in the in-depth coverage section is cross-referenced so that users can quickly jump from one article to another relevant one within the database.

Best original content

DynaMed
EBSCO; dynamed.ebscohost.com

Available as a mobile application for students and clinicians on the go, DynaMed is lauded by Elizabeth R. Lorbeer as a great clinical diagnostic tool that is truly evidence-based and that provides the best quality of information when making a point-of-care decision in a health-care setting. The database, which integrates with electronic medical record systems, provides information on more than 3200 medical topics. Its editors monitor in excess of 500 medical journals daily, with each article evaluated for clinical relevance and scientific validity. If the material is chosen for the database, it is then integrated with existing content, and overall conclusions are changed as appropriate, representing a synthesis of the best available evidence. Users may also sign up for DynaMed Weekly Update, a newsletter that gathers the one to five new articles most likely to change clinical practice.

RUNNERS-UP
CQ Researcher/
CQ Global Researcher

CQ Press; www.cqpress.com/lib/global-researcher.html

CQ Researcher and CQ Global Researcher provide users with balanced, authoritative, and in-depth coverage and analysis of a broad range of current U.S. and global affairs via a very reader-friendly framework, says Bruce Connolly. Most important, the content is written specifically for CQ Researcher: this database doesn’t merely provide access to disparate outside sources. Opening with a summary overview and closing with an annotated bibliography, each original report is composed by veteran journalists such as Peter Behr, Lee Michael Katz, and Colin Woodard. Running approximately 12,000 words, each report covers a salient political, social, environmental, or regional concern, among them Rise of the Petro-States or Emerging India. New articles are added monthly and can be accessed in PDF format. Particularly helpful to researchers is the database’s straightforward organization. Themed reports contain recognizable sections‚ Introduction, Overview, Background, Current Situation, Outlook, Pro/Con, and Chronology. Also notable are the many prominent sidebars that accompany each report and allow for more rapid identification of relevant further reading.

ProQuest Dissertations & Theses
ProQuest; www.proquest.com/en-US/catalogs/databases/detail/pqdt.shtml

The academic librarian who is a fan of Web of Knowledge and Alexander Street’s therapy resources also gives ProQuest Dissertations and Theses her seal of approval. It’s not surprising, she says, that citation studies have established that dissertations are rarely cited in scholarly papers‚ until recently, accessing the full text of a dissertation required a lengthy, and sometimes unsuccessful, interlibrary loan process. Depending on subscription level, ProQuest Dissertations & Theses provides full-text access to a significant representation of a genre that is often not available in book or article format. This access is important because dissertations can also clearly and thoroughly describe the process of conducting a research project and often include some of the most comprehensive literature reviews and explanations of research methods one is likely to find.

Patrons’ favorites

Ancestry.com Library Edition
ProQuest; www.proquest.com/en-US/catalogs/databases/detail/ale.shtml

Like its widely advertised web version‚ to which individuals can purchase either monthly or annual subscriptions‚ the library-oriented product provides access to U.S., UK, and Canadian census rec ords from 1790 through 1930. Also readily searchable are immigration lists; European and North American birth, marriage, military, and parish records; and a raft of digitized documents and photographs. What sets the library database apart from the wildly popular online version is that it offers access to historical newspaper collections, and this extends research possibilities. Barb Kundanis calls it the widely recognized first stop in genealogical research, citing the database’s billions of records as its principal strength. Kundanis also recommends Heritage Quest, which permits PERSI (Periodical Source Index) searches and remote access, as a necessary complement to Ancestry. Christine Sharbrough echoes Kundanis’s vote, stating that although [Ancestry.com is for] in- library use only, that hasn’t slowed its usage at all. She adds that her patrons also appreciate the more locally focused American Ancestors.org, which is produced by the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

RUNNERS-UP
JSTOR
ITHAKA; http://www.jstor.org/

With an archive that currently boasts in excess of 1400 journals containing thousands of scholarly articles, conference proceedings, and primary-source material from 50 subject disciplines, JSTOR has become the principal research tool for peer-reviewed academic scholarship. By spring 2012 it will also provide access to books. Though Kate Corby is continually surprised by JSTOR’s popularity with students, as it is old stuff in a clunky interface, Barbara Fister says that students like that everything in it is safely scholarly, and their professors often want scholarly. Also, she explains, they don’t get overwhelmed with results because it’s not stuffed full of third- and fourth-tier journals, and, because it’s full text, they can search it like Google and always find something, even if it’s not the most current. Fister can also attest to JSTOR’s superior search function. Religion majors working on their senior theses told me that they preferred it to ATLA [American Theological Library Association’s Religion Database¬Æ] and felt they found more relevant sources, explains Fister. Clearly, ATLA should have contained more sources on their topics, but they were harder to locate. JSTOR makes access to pertinent subject matter rapid and easy. Referring to it as her old friend, Lura Sanborn calls it the Most Ambitious in Scope or Content. JSTOR and its sister database, ARTSTOR, enjoy the highest usage statistics in her library.

Naxos Music Library
Naxos; http://www.naxosmusiclibrary.com/

A project of the Naxos classical music label, Naxos Music Library contains recordings from over 250 independent labels, incorporating a wide variety of genres from classical to rock. The database currently boasts access to more than 700 opera libretti and in excess of 55,000 CD-length tracks, with an additional 800 added each month. Regular podcasts, more than 10,000 composer and artist profiles, and a term glossary make this a particularly valuable tool for music educators. This is a favorite with our music faculty, says Anna Hulseberg. When we began our subscription last fall, we signed on for the five simultaneous users option, she says. The database was so popular that we upgraded to ten simultaneous users within the first month. We have received positive feedback from faculty who are integrating the streaming music into their teaching. Hulseberg also praises Naxos’s fine customer care.

VisualDX
Logical Images; http://www.visualdx.com/

This database, which provides images that help diagnose illnesses exhibiting visual characteristics, is a favorite of medical students at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, according to Elizabeth Lorbeer. VisualDX is easy for a health professional student to use, she says, yet powerful enough to fulfill any clinician’s need to properly diagnose in dermatology. Compared with other clinical diagnostic tools, she adds, VisualDX is affordable and well worth its value. Search does not depend on knowing a diagnosis name‚ instead users mine more than 16,000 digital medical images, representing all ages and skin types, and are provided with a range of matching conditions.


CONTRIBUTORS
Michael Bemis, prision librarian, Minnesota Correctional Facility‚ Oak Park Heights; Bruce Connolly, reference and instruction librarian, Schaffer Library, Union College, Schenectady, NY; Kate Corby, education and psychology reference librarian, Michigan State University Libraries, East Lansing; Barbara Fister, librarian, Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN; Diane Fulkerson, social science and education librarian, University of South Florida‚ Polytechnic, Lakeland; Annette Haldeman, legislative librarian, Maryland Department of Legislative Services, Annapolis; Anna Hulseberg, librarian, Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library, Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN; Barb Kundanis, librarian, Longmont Public Library, CO; Cheryl LaGuardia, research librarian, Widener Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; Elizabeth R. Lorbeer, associate director for content management, Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences, University of Alabama at Birmingham; Jennifer Michaelson, Cleveland; Lura Sanborn, librarian, Ohrstrom Library, St. Paul’s School, Concord, NH; Carrie Scarr, assistant director, West Fargo Public Library, ND; Christine Sharbrough, librarian, Derry Public Library, NH; Alec Sonsteby, librarian and professor, Metropolitan State University, St. Paul; Librarians from the University of Alabama and University of Tennessee libraries.

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About Savannah Schroll Guz

Savannah Schroll Guz, formerly with Smithsonian Libs., Washington, DC

Comments

  1. Jadranka says:

    Very useful review, thanks. I like the descriptions and quotations. My suggestion is to make the difference between fee and free databases, hopefully librarians use both. There are great resources and databases which are FREE, but speaking in terms of aesthetics, scope, or functionality it is difficult to compare them with commercial and often overpriced products.
    If it’s not possible to make “Best OA Databases 2011″, additional category for open access databases will be welcomed. J

  2. Henrietta Thornton-Verma says:

    Jadranka and Julie, thanks for your comments. Duly noted! I’m glad to have an idea for future coverage. In case it’s not clear, the databases reviewed in this piece were all fee-based, though some also offer free features on their websites.

    Etta (LJ reference editor)

  3. Karen Jensen says:

    I recommend comparing Mango languages with BBC Languages, a free site, when you do a piece on free databases. And Britannica with Wikipedia. And WOK with Google Scholar.

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