Best Databases 2014

This year’s best database roundup, as nominated by LJ’s readers, includes an intriguing mix of the tried-and-true as well as upstarts on their way to finding a place in all librarians’ toolkits. The members of our profession have always welcomed fresh ways of finding information and helping patrons, and the resources listed below offer useful, absorbing, and in some cases attractive avenues to explore along with some new ways to assist.

Starting on page 9, you can find a list of the new databases coming to libraries between now and the end of 2015. They cover everything from Romantic poetry to chemistry but reveal a welcome focus—perhaps a sign of economic recovery?—on resources that help with vocational information and education outside of four-year institutions.


SIRS Issues Researcher

SirsAs its title suggests, this database helps students tackle the big issues of our day. The focus is on material for K-12 students, though community college students and college freshman may also find it useful. One of the family of SIRS data­bases, SIRS Issues Researcher continues to impress users and librarians alike. Rachel Tonnuci, a teacher-librarian at Conard High School in West Hartford, CT, is a particularly avid fan. “It’s just the best, period,” she says, going on to point out that it is “the only database we have that allows the user to search by graphics. If students are looking for charts, graphs, political cartoons, they can search for that type.” Tonnuci also praises SIRS, which presents students with pro and con arguments on a multitude of issues, for preselecting articles on each side of the debate. Last year, the database was a runner-up in the “Best for Reports” category.


EBSCO Academic Search Premier

Academic Search PremierA perennial favorite among librarians from all types of libraries. The librarian who nominated EBSCO’s Academic Search Premier calls it is a “must-have…so patrons can find articles not available via a general Internet search,” also pointing out that it provides an “easy way to access a Consumer Reports article,” and we know how in demand those are. The breadth here is unparalleled; the database offers access to nearly 14,000 journals, many of them peer-reviewed and full text. All academic subjects are well represented, though the emphasis is on the sciences and social sciences.


Global Issues in Context
Gale, part of Cengage Learning;

Global Issues - Gale In ContextThis Gale database is geared toward the K–12 audience and “wildy popular with students,” according to the nominating librarian. She adds that she is “amazed at the usage statistics generated by my institution,” calling it a “surprise hit.” The scope of the database is distinctly international, and the sources, many of them from non-U.S. publications in English, go beyond simple pros and cons to explore the nuances of issues such as child soldiers, cloning, and ­elderly rights. Whether it is used alone or in tandem with SIRS Issues Researcher (see above), this resource offers students a great introduction to the complexity of world events, conflicts, and debates.


Global Plants

Global Plants on JSTOR 2014-12-14 21-53-24JSTOR’s gorgeous Global Plants is the work of a worldwide team. Offering a repository in which “herbaria can share their plant type specimens, experts can determine and update naming structures, [and] students can discover and learn about plants in context,” the data­base draws upon the work of 91 U.S. and 200-plus foreign facilities. As well as a growing collection of two million high-resolution plant images, users can access reference works on botany and primary-source material such as collectors’ correspondence, paintings, drawings, and photographs. LJ’s Henrietta Verma notes that the attractive images document species that may soon be lost to the world, others that are new to scientific description, and still more that are noteworthy simply for their beauty or usefulness. Most impressive, Verma finds, is the cooperative nature of the work, which has rapidly produced a valuable corpus of images.


Statista, Inc.;

StatistaOffering a “mind-bending array” of statistics that are “international in scope,” according to Lura Sanborn of St. Paul’s School, Concord, NH, there ­really is nothing else out there like Statista. Users can find information on everything from the music industry to gun control to worldwide poverty rates. Sanborn goes on to point out that Statista’s “color infographics ‘speak’ to our patrons more than the black-and-white charts we are accustomed to.”

Many of the statistics are easily downloadable with the creation of an account, which is free to patrons at subscribing libraries. Statista also offers individual and corporate subscriptions. Corporate users have access to “dossiers,” highly detailed multipage statistical reports. Searching Statista is intuitive and straightforward, says Sanborn; most users will find it no different from searching Google. Lastly, she says, the database makes statistics fun, and how often do we get a chance to say that?


Ancestry Library Edition

Ancestry Library Edition 2014-12-14 21-58-36The nominating librarian says that “libraries should have at least…one ­genealogical database” and calls this one an “incredible resource.” Distributed by ProQuest, this is the library-friendly version of the database we’ve all seen advertised on TV. Though the focus is on U.S. records, Ancestry continues to add scads of data from Canada, the UK, Germany, and China. It also has an extensive U.S. military collection and very valuable multimedia including newsreels, postcards, and photographs of gravestones.


ALLDATA Repair (Library Version)

ALLDATA Repair - ALLDATA 2014-12-14 22-01-04Barbara Kundanis, reference librarian at Longmont Public Library, CO, says, “ALLDATA is the major automotive repair database…. We have mechanics stopping in the library to use ­ALLDATA.” The library version gives users factory diagrams; help with parts and labor estimates; and maintenance tables for every make, model, and year. The material is printable and updated daily, which is especially helpful for mechanics working on recalls. This is a reliable and cost-saving tool for both professionals and hobbyists in your patron base.


Avention, Inc.;

The nominating librarian calls this Aventiondatabase (formerly known as OneSource) her “favorite database for company research…it is one-stop shopping.” Though it is geared slightly more toward the corporate and sales worlds (and the libraries that support them), it is also ideal for business students at the bachelor’s and master’s levels who are working on marketing projects. Searching a company name quickly and easily brings up information on location, parent company, and subsidiaries. Basic information such as number of employees, top executives, and NAICS and SICS codes is also included. Because Avention’s data is continuously updated, users will find this resource highly reliable.


LearningExpress Library
LearningExpress, LLC;

LearningExpress LibraryPerfect for college-bound high school students as well as adults looking to change or enhance their careers, the new LearningExpress Library provides users with practice ACT and SAT tests, as well as GED practice tests in English and Spanish. Occupational tests for veterinary, nursing, and military careers are also available. Students not yet ready for these tests can access a variety of tutorials to help them prepare. The database is easy to navigate and provides discrete categories for each type of learner.


Facts On File’s Databases
Infobase Learning;

InfobaseHigh school students need detailed information that is written in a straightforward way and that doesn’t come with predigested opinions. Facts On File’s data­bases are at just the right level. The company’s American History Online, Ancient and Medieval History Online, and Modern World History Online go into great depth on their respective topics and feature primary sources that are useful and often required for assignments. For literary criticism, author information, and writing help, Facts On File’s Bloom’s Literature and Writer’s Reference Center is key. Finally, those seeking ideas for science fair projects and country profiles will appreciate the company’s Science Online and its World Geography & Culture Online, ­respectively.

Derek Sanderson is a Librarian at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, NY

This article was published in Library Journal's November 1, 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.