Many of you are frequent users of the library, and like me, experts at the circulation end of the deal. But did you know that circulation is only 15-20% of what the library has to offer?
When I first asked my local reference librarian what library patrons should do to get more out of the library, she didn’t hesitate for a second: “Use the databases.” The databases are a fabulous tool for scholars, students, or anyone who wants to read Consumer Reports, but I didn’t know what I would ever need the databases for. I wasn’t too excited about the library’s research tools.
Well, I’ve become a convert, and this summer I’ve learned my way around the “Research Tools” section of my library’s website. And look at all the good stuff I’ve found!
1. I follow the fashion blog Already Pretty, and when I found out it had been mentioned in the academic journal The Chronicle of Higher Education I had to read all about it! But then I found out I needed a $40 subscription in order to access the article. That’s when I decided I needed to get acquainted with the databases, and how “Fashion, Out of the Closet” became the first article I read using my local library’s online research tools.
2. I saw the teaser page for the editorial How Jane Austen Taught Me to Be a Man, but again, couldn’t read the whole article without a subscription. This time, I didn’t panic–I logged on to my library website and accessed the ProQuest database. (It’s a short, fun article, and I recommend it to any Jane Austen fan!) And while I was still on the library’s site, I promptly requested the author’s new book, A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter.
3. I just blazed through Laura Hillenbrand’s excellent book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, and was intrigued to know more about the author after her allusions to a mysterious illness in her acknowledgements. The bookjacket said her essay “A Sudden Illness” had won the 2004 National Magazine Award; intrigued, I looked it up. Subscription only (of course!) but I found the full-text version with my library’s research tools in two minutes flat.
Databases don’t seem fun, or sexy (well, maybe they do if you’ve watched UW’s Librarians Do Gaga video), but they are your tool to unlock the hidden web. My library’s research tools are excellent–but they are the standard research tools available through libraries nationwide, and the same tools are probably available to you, too. All you need is a library card.
And if you need help getting started: ask your reference librarians! Most would be thrilled to teach you how to use your own library’s tools. Whether you want to pursue a passion, do a little research, or read mattress reviews in Consumer Reports, there’s a wealth of information in the databases that Google just can’t deliver to you. But your library can. Take advantage of it!