Best Databases: What Makes the Grade in 2012?

As Savannah Schroll Guz observed in last year’s Best Databases article, “not all databases are created equal.” And don’t librarians know it. Last fall, when we asked for your best-database nominations, we heard from public, academic, and legislative librarians—even a prison librarian—and all had strong views on what made the grade.

The overall winner, Credo Reference, and runners up Fold3 and Web of Knowledge headed a list of resources from the well-known—Gale Virtual Reference Library, Encyclopedia Britannica—to esoteric favorites such as Rock’s Backpages and Visual DX. The resulting article was one of our  most popular last year.

It seems clear that it was useful to you (12,500 page views can’t be wrong!), so we’re doing it again. And, again, we’re asking for your input. Were you wowed by any new databases this year? By resources that have been around a while but that you hadn’t used before? Or did you find new reasons to appreciate last year’s winners?

We’re looking for nominations in the categories listed below (or feel free to make up your own)  and a short explanation of what makes the resource “most-improved,” “best buy,” “most ambitious,” etc. A bulleted list of reasons is fine. We’ll be using your reasons as direct quotations within the article itself, which will appear in print in the November 1, 2012 reference supplement and then online. Nominations will close on October 3, 2012. However, please let me know if you are not comfortable with being quoted directly.

Suggested Database Categories:

Greatest Content Upgrade
Greatest Usability Revamp
Most Ambitious (in scope or content)
Most Improved (overall)
Best Integration of Media
Most Unlikely Hit (with users)
Most Elegant (aesthetics and functionality)
Best Buy
Best Integration of External/Outside Content
Best Original Content
Your Patrons’ Favorite Database(s)

Take it away! The comments section below will be perfect for getting the ball rolling, or I’m at Thank you in advance for your nominations.

Henrietta Verma About Henrietta Verma

Henrietta Verma is Senior Editorial Communications Specialist at NISO, the National Information Standards Organization, Baltimore, and was formerly the reviews editor at Library Journal.


  1. I have found Questia an excellent database for Senior Secondary students. It now contains a mix of both books and journals. Unfortunately, it does not allow institution subscriptions and students need to purchase an individual subscription.

    • Matt M says:

      Hi Carolyn, this is Matt from Cengage Learning (Questia). Thanks so much for nominating Questia, we are always excited to hear from satisfied customers. One note, we do offer institutional subscriptions for K-12 schools, through QuestiaSchool DOT com.

  2. I nominate Zinio for the Best NEW Database for 2012. We just added this database for staff and will offer to the public starting October 1. Staff is very excited and I know our patrons will be, too. Our periodical collection just became easier to manage.

    Zinio offered by Recorded Books (RB Digital) provides thousands of publications on a wide range of topics- a digital newsstand – with complete content from cover to cover. Public libraries can select and subscribe to publications of interest to their communities. Simultaneous access is included. Everyone in town could be reading Consumer Reports free through their public library using their library card. Access is available on any internet-enabled device. Patrons can download a title or many titles and will be notified when the next issue is available. In addition to Consumer Reports, other titles include The Economist, HELLO!, Car and Driver, Food Network Magazine, House Beautiful, Holiday Baking (Yes, it includes special publications that you could never order!), Publisher’s Weekly, Science, US Weekly and much more!

    • Michael Nitz says:

      I’d like to chime in with my support for Zinio as the best new database of 2012. While Zinio has been around for something like 10 years, the service hasn’t been offered as a platform for libraries until this year. We bought access to it in July 2012 and have had tremendous patron support of the service. In the two months of access, we’ve had over 800 users sign up for the service, accessing over 5,000 subscriptions. We’ve had local residents obtain library cards just to gain access to Zinio!

  3. Ann Hokanson says:

    Zinio! Colorful, current, and carefree immediate access to magazines in a fun-to-use interface. I see our patrons reading our Zinio magazines on their devises right in the library next to our print periodicals.

  4. Henrietta Verma Henrietta Thornton-Verma says:

    Thank you so much to everyone who commented here and emailed me. I’m finishing the article now, and your work will appear in the reference supplement that is mailed with the Nov. 1 issue of LJ, and thereafter online. I really appreciate your assistance with this piece!