LJ Best Books 2017

It's time again for LJ’s annual Top Ten Best Books of the year, selected by our editors, as well as Top Five lists for genre fiction, nonfiction, poetry and literature, graphic novels, and SELF-e titles.   SEE WHO MADE THE LIST

Best Free Reference Websites & Apps of 2016


AAPB: American Archive of Public Broadcasting

A collaboration between the Library of Congress and WGBH in Boston “to preserve for posterity the most significant public television and radio programs of the past 60 years.” Both audio and video from around the country are archived and searchable, with more than 17,000 clips. Curated collections on special topics include the First Amendment, Freedom of Speech, and the right to protest.


A free service from Pop-Up Archive, ­Audiosear.ch is a full-­text search “and intelligence engine” for podcasts. Participating podcasts are loaded into the searchable database, allowing rich and deep keyword searching. Users can filter content by show, network, category, people, or topic and share clips on social media. The organization recently partnered with the Digital Public Library of America.

BASE: Bielefeld Academic Search Engine

Operated by the Bielefeld University Library in Germany, this voluminous search engine allows users to search over 100 million documents from more than 4,000 sources. Users can access the full texts of about 60 percent of the indexed documents (open access). See also: Microsoft Academic and Semantic Scholar.

Camel Camel Camel

A price tracker tool that provides price drop alerts and price history charts for any products sold via Amazon. Users can set up a simple alert to receive notifications anytime an item price falls. There is also visual and textual price history information for every item in the Amazon database. Great for business research.

C-SPAN Video Library

More than 228,000 hours of video (just about everything that has ever aired on C-SPAN), updated on a daily basis. Historical content includes debates, speeches, rallies, and more. Users can create custom video clips to save and share. Essential.


A catalog of primary source documents and a tool for annotating, organizing, and publishing them on the web. Documents are contributed by journalists, researchers, and archivists worldwide. Users can analyze occurrence of particular words in a document and view dates on a time line. Researchers can even see the journalist’s notes. Powered by investigative reporters and editors.



The Congressional Research Service (CRS), a division of the Library of Congress, is Congress’s think tank, researching and compiling nonpartisan reports on a governmental issues. This site, with bi­partisan support, make these reports available to the public. Updated regularly.

Global Stat

From the European University Institute, this database compiles publicly available data from over 100 sources, offering statistical information on globalization, sustainability, and human development. Users can search on a range of topics including income distribution, energy consumption, water resources, dwellings, migration, land use, food production, nutrition, school enrollment, and life expectancy and create data visualizations. See the list of underlying sources by clicking the sources/entities link at the bottom left of the main page.


Allows users to search for and track legislation being debated in the U.S. Congress. They can an set up alerts for particular bills and pieces of legislation as well as follow individual Congress members’ work on bills and resolutions, voting records, and committee work.


From Indiana University’s Observatory of Social Media, this tool lets users search for and visualize the spread of claims (“fake news”) and related fact-checking via social media.

IFTTT (If This Than That)

A nifty and highly customizable tool that can be employed without having any computer coding skills to mesh two online or digital services. For example, users can set up an RSS feed to deliver in-box alerts, automatically backup all tweets to a Google doc, or program your phone’s GPS to open your garage door. The possibilities are nearly endless.


From the UK, this independent news aggregation service displays breaking headlines linked to global news websites. Stories are categorized by topic, with links updated constantly in real time. Source and country of origin for every piece is indicated. With a useful browsing feature and the ability to set up alerts.


An app for iOs and Android, it instantly solves any arithmetic or algebra problem at which the phone’s camera is pointed, showing the steps to achieve that result.

Wayback Machine Archive Feature


Though most librarians are likely familiar with the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, there is a feature that’s worth highlighting: Save Page Now, which lets users archive most web pages and PDFs instantly on demand. A simple copy and paste guarantees that the web page you saw today will be available even if it’s changed or deleted later.


A digital preservation tool developed by an arts group based in New York. By using the Webrecorder interface, individuals can browse the web while recording their searches. They can then save and view “collections” via the Webrecorder platform or download saved sessions.

Gary Price is a librarian, writer, consultant, and conference speaker based in the Washington, DC, area and editor of LJ’s INFOdocket