Ereview: Britannica Digital Learning, June 15, 2012

Britannica Digital Learning; visit this site for free trials

CONTENT Image Quest (IQ) is an online file of more than 2.5 million images from 53 collections such as Bridgeman Art Library, the British Library, Chicago History Museum, culture-images, DK Images, Encyclopædia Britannica, Getty Images, the Granger Collection, Image Quest Marine, National Geographic Society, National Portrait Gallery, Nativestock Pictures, Natural History Museum, Oxford Scientific, Royal Geographical Society, Science & Society Picture Library, Science Photo Library, and Wellcome Images Library. There are about 13 more collections included than when I previously reviewed the product (LJ 2/15/11;

The breadth of the imagery is what makes this file so extraordinary, and every picture is rights-cleared for noncommercial, educational use, with copyright and metadata details included, as well as specific citing instructions for APA, Chicago Manual of Style, Harvard, and MLA formats.

Usability The main screen is clear and easy to use: there’s a title/logo bar with the file name and buttons for home, a guided tour, search, and help, along with a button indicating the number of images in the user’s Lightbox (think of an Amazon shopping cart). Below that is a search toolbar for browsing by subject or collection, or doing a keyword search. The home page also displays a carousel list of collections, featured images, and featured searches.

I started out browsing by subject, selecting biography (other subjects include animals, culinary arts, environment and ecology, hobbies and crafts, industry and production, literature, math, medicine and health, natural history, objects, religious studies, and vintage content). That browse took me to 413,299 images, beginning with a thumbnail of Samuel Varley, English watercolorist, 1816. There were two icons on the thumbnail, one leading to more information‚ caption, credit, subjects, keywords, how to cite, a link to view the larger image, and copyright and technical information. There are also buttons for downloading, printing, or emailing the picture and for adding it to the Lightbox. A browse by collection was just as effortless.

Next, I tried a search for Amish women and got 29 results, including a couple of 19th-century images. A related search, for Amish teenagers, found 11 results, all of which were on target.

A query for images related to Darfur genocide resulted in 55 hits, ranging from photos of Hollywood celebrities at a Rally to Stop Genocide to a picture of smouldering ruins a day after the abandoned village of Chero Kasi was set ablaze by Janjaweed militiamen in the violence plagued Darfur region September 8, 2004. I tried downloading, printing, emailing, and moving images to the Lightbox: all of these functions take little more than the click of a button.

Illustrating the depth and breadth of the file, a search of all collections for hysteria found an eye-opening array of images ranging from Jean-Martin Charcot demonstrating hysteria in a patient at the Salpetriere in 1887 to a 1960s image of Beatles hysteria, and from a c.1600 German engraving of Middle Ages Dancing Mania‚ Victims of the hysterical dancing mania of the late Middle Ages in a churchyard to a photograph of Comedian and founder of the Hysteria Trust, Stephen Fry. Now that’s a wide range of material.

What’s changed since last I reviewed IQ? They’ve added French, Spanish, and Portuguese versions, and plan to add more languages. They’ve also made it easier for users to access images: IQ now supports OpenSearch, Britannica’s API (application programming interface) that allows quick integration with search software and library management systems, giving users access to images using commonly employed search methods. And they’ve added a search-box widget so that users can place an IQ search box on any webpage for direct access to images, a great convenience.

The one change I asked for in the previous review was to be able to browse the larger image results from a search without having to open them up one at a time, and this has been improved: now users can enlarge an image from the search results and page through all the results without closing the larger view.

The quantity and quality of images in this database are spectacular, as is the ease of finding material and making use of it, whether by storing, downloading, printing, or emailing.

Having the Featured Images and Featured Searches options up front is certain to excite users’ curiosity, although I have one suggestion: flip the real estate allotted to the carousel list of collections on the main screen (most of which is occupied by a huge, static photo of a camera lens) and place the featured images and searches above the carousel list, directly beneath the main toolbar. You can get to the collections in the main toolbar, and the outstanding featured images will catch the eye faster; the searches will similarly captivate the imagination.

Pricing List pricing for Image Quest is 62¢ per user, with a minimum order of $425. User counts are calculated as follows: four-year academic, 100 percent of FTE enrollment; two-year academic, 75 percent of FTE enrollment; public libraries, seven percent of population served; and K-12 school libraries: 100 percent of enrollment.

Verdict My previous review of Image Quest concluded that Image Quest is going to serve researchers from grade school through university levels very well. Bigger and better, this new version offers just as much value; its appeal is confirmed resoundingly.

Cheryl LaGuardia About Cheryl LaGuardia

Cheryl LaGuardia always wanted to be a librarian, and has been one for more years than she's going to admit. She cracked open her first CPU to install a CD-ROM card in the mid-1980's, pioneered e-resource reviewing for Library Journal in the early 90's (picture calico bonnets and prairie schooners on the web...), won the Louis Shores / Oryx Press Award for Professional Reviewing, and has been working for truth, justice, and better electronic library resources ever since. Reach her at, where she's a Research Librarian at Harvard University.