It perhaps was not until I was in college that I truly started to use and appreciate the online databases offered by public libraries. Suddenly I was writing papers and crafting presentations that required even more in-depth research than in high school. Due dates were looming, and I did not have time — or the desire — to read entire physical books in search of a few relevant chapters. Thankfully, modern technology and publishing meant that the texts I needed could conveniently be found online. And even better? The public libraries in my life offered a plethora of databases for free. Papers on psychological experiments? Check. A close reading of classic literature? Check. Images that gave context to certain time periods? Check.
Somehow it took me until then in my life to also discover that there is a rich variety of databases offered by public libraries across the United States. The offerings are not limited to those who are working on research (frantically, in my case); instead, there are databases for looking into genealogy, seeking out a variety of book recommendations, or finding key information about careers or business industries. It turns out that databases can be both helpful and fun.
That being said, let’s dive into six options often available at many public libraries across the country! Make sure to head to your local library’s website to check to see which specific databases they offer.
EBSCO is an incredible resource that can come in clutch for a wide variety of patrons. The database of databases offers a variety of sites that are subject specific. Interested in reading the biography of a prominent political figure? EBSCO’s Biography Reference Center can direct you to online sources or the most appropriate titles for that particular person’s biography. Need to prepare for your upcoming LSAT, GRE, SAT, or other major academic test? Head to LearningExpress for all the materials. Many of EBSCO’s databases allow patrons to access the full-text of periodicals, journals, encyclopedias, and much more.
NoveList is a great option for those who are hungry for their next book. (Although we heartily recommend checking out Book Riot roundups and lists as another way to sate your hunger.) Book recommendation lists are organized by themes — such as “Haunting and Compelling” — as well as broader genres. If you’re not sure what specific book you want to read, but you know what you want to read about, try searching subjects or time periods in the NoveList search function to find a title that matches up.
Curious about the generations of your family that came before you? Interested in vintage family photos, copies of old birth certificates, or a confirmation of when your family members immigrated? Answers might be right at the end of your fingertips: many libraries offer free access to ancestry.com! Search the site for all those little missing nuggets of family history. When I worked at a public library, many an eager patron was delighted to find we offered this service for free.
For those who are looking for employment, many public library’s offer access to AtoZ Databases. On AtoZ, patrons can download helpful resume templates, research business industries, create marketing mailing lists, and view job postings. The database is helpful for professionals, job seekers, students, and anyone who has an interest in connecting with local businesses.
For anyone who is really hoping to dive deep into research topics, JSTOR is the site for you! JSTOR is a fantastic resource for primary resources, including books, articles, journals, images, and more. These resources are often completely online so there’s no need to find buy or borrow print copies. Whatever knowledge you seek, JSTOR can likely steer you in the right direction towards the prestigious academic sources needed. (This was one particular site I found extremely helpful while writing papers as an undergraduate student.)
World Book is the perfect place for anyone looking for an interactive way to learn about the world. Ranging from games and books to help children learn about animals, to lesson plans and activities for teaching poetry, the content in this particular database is crafted for learners of all ages. This is an especially wonderful resource for young learners and teachers alike.
Bonus: Local Databases
In addition to these varied, incredibly helpful databases, I’d like to share that many public libraries also offer generous access to both local newspapers and historical photos. The websites and extent of available items may vary by state, so be sure to check out the specifics through your local library.
Interested in more library content? If you’re intrigued by the the future of libraries, read all about the news on Automated Library Vending Machines. Want even more library resources? Check out the other services your library probably offers.