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reference databases

Though it must have been at least seventeen years ago, I still remember the first time a teacher stood in front of my class and proclaimed what has since become standard at the outset of every research paper and class project in schools across the country: “You must include at least one (or two, or ten) internet source(s).”

I’d heard that line at least twice a year over the course of my school career, and it never failed to put a wrinkle on my forehead every time. I am and always have been a bibliophile through and through, and it took me a long time to get over the notion that using anything other than a good old-fashioned book for academic research was sacrilege. Of course, I realize now that my views were probably in the minority; the mid-to-late-nineties was a time of rapid digital transformation, when the ideas and gadgets we now take for granted–all the games, all the programs and devices, and all of the wonders of the Word Wide Web–were still fermenting in the technological brewery. Today, I’m as much a part of this wired world as anyone else, and I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.

That said, I do have my misgivings over how much academic research revolves around the internet–not because there’s anything intrinsically wrong with it, but because the attitudes of far too many students literally scream “Everything is Online!” The “sad” truth, however, is that precious little of what’s readily available out there really meets scholarly muster, and as teachers wise up to the yearly round of copypasta they receive from students courtesy of Wikipedia and Google, they are putting a greater stress on quality and reputable resources. Unfortunately, many of these valuable online gems are hard to find; they’re often tucked safely away behind an intimidating pay wall, or lost in a tangle of dead links and dead ends.

The good news is that there are a number of good sources out there dedicated to teaching budding scholars how to separate the wheat from the internet chafe with confidence.  A good place to start would be the About.com Guide to Online Research: Navigate the Web–from RSS and the Invisible Web to Multimedia and the Blogosphere by Wendy Boswell. Yes, I know it’s a book (published in 2007), but it’s a helpful guide for anyone looking to learn the basics of web research. Boswell writes with the casual web surfer in mind and fills her book with helpful hints along with a glossary for readers who want to know an IP from an ISP.  While not specifically geared towards student research, it gives valuable advice on how to evaluate websites, master classic search engines, and many more useful tips for anyone hoping to navigate the internet’s murky terrain.

GALILEOA major topic in Boswell’s book is the so-called Deep Web, the huge sea of websites lurking just beyond the nets cast by the major search engines.  Major components of these hidden websites are the aforementioned pay walls and online databases that form a barricade around most of the information crucial for well-crafted school papers. GALILEO is one such resource, a huge online library portal offering vast, authoritative information from hundreds of periodicals, scholarly journals, and academic monographs. An initiative of the University System of Georgia, GALILEO provides equal access to information for all citizens in Georgia and accomplishes its mission through a network of universities, K-12 schools, and public libraries.  GALILEO can be used as a sort of scholarly Google by typing in queries and collecting results. There’s also a specially-designed GALILEO Kids interface, plus you can access any of its individual resources directly with GALILEO A-Z. These various ways of access are conveniently perched at the top of the Reference Databases page on our library website.

Here are two additional resources specifically tailored for our youngest scholars:

  • Kids Search – Designed with elementary and middle school students in mind, this bright and colorful site cuts a lot of the pain out of researching topics. Its unique check-box topic search helps students narrow down searches without fumbling around to find the right words, and it comes equipped with a dictionary and an encyclopedia.
  • NoveList K-8 Plus – Need to find books in a particular category?  This new junior addition to the popular Novelist database allows young students to browse through subject and genre categories for whatever topic they need.  It’s also a good place for parents to build a summer reading list to get a good head start on what their child may expect in the upcoming school year.

I’d be the first to admit that, if I’m looking for quick, painless information, I’d probably turn to Google or Wikipedia before I crack open a dictionary or an encyclopedia.  The internet is the source for virtually unlimited information, and having all of that at your fingertips can be quite intoxicating. But information access and information literacy are not the same, and if you or your child are trying to get the most accurate and scholarly information you can, you might want to give the Wikiverse a rest and try a resource with a little more meat.

There’s a nice list of student resources available on the library website under Reference Databases.  If anyone has their own hidden gem, please feel free to share.

 

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Aug 20 2012

Mysteries and small towns

by Amanda L

This summer I discovered a great new television series, Longmire. The series takes place in Wyoming and the main character is a sheriff who always seems to have a dead body on his hands.  I was pleasantly surprised after reading the credits of the show that it was based on a series of books which was written by Craig Johnson. Being the library person I am, I proceeded to look at the DCPL catalog to discover that we had three of the books in the series. 

A few weeks later, I went back to the catalog to order the first in the series which the library had but was disappointed that there was a small waiting list. I placed my name on the list but I really had a hankering for a good mystery that takes place in the western United States. I decided to see if the resource NoveList might produce a list that would be similar to the Longmire series. Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone series had already crossed my mind while I was watching the show. (I have seen the movies based on the books starring Tom Selleck.) NoveList can be found on the Reference Database page under the book section. Below is a sampling of books that NoveList suggested I try if I liked Craig Johnson’s Longmire series.

Want to read the entire Longmire series? Although the Library does not have all of the books in the series, you can always use the interlibrary loan service to read most of the others in the series.

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Jun 14 2010

You just gotta be there. . .

by Patricia D

You know, in these modern times genealogy as a hobby is  easy.  You have the census on-line through DCPL’s reference databases which contain Ancestry and Heritage Quest, both keyword searchable.  No more trips on the odd Friday off to the National Archives and Records Administration’s Southeastern branch. Thanks to Google Books and Heritage Quest you’ve got access to digitized county histories, most of which did not have indexes but are now keyword searchable.   Many counties now have their historical records on-line so the six to eight week ordeal of getting a death certificate is  a thing of the past.  As a hobby genealogy is now cheaper, quicker and a lot of it can be done from home.

So much can now be done from the comfort of an easy chair, a Wi-Fi equipped laptop balanced on your knees and a beverage of choice at your elbow, but there is still nothing as thrilling as being there.  When your fifth great-grandfather writes from 1869 that his  sister married a man named Erp, sometimes it takes driving  into Monmouth, Illinois, your car filled with the heavy, golden light of a late afternoon autumn sun,  for you to suddenly go, “Oh, snap!  Grandpa couldn’t spell!” because of course  Monmouth, Illinois is the birthplace of Wyatt Earp.  Yep,  they have a great  big sign right inside the city limits proclaiming it.  This puts a whole new spin on your research because you are suddenly not tracking down a faceless person who lived and died in upstate Illinois but someone whose sister married Wyatt Earp’s uncle.  You now know you are tied to a piece of Western mythology.  You are so overcome with this revelation you have to go sit in a diner, drinking coffee and eating very good butterscotch pie, wishing that you had paid more attention to Kurt Russell instead of Val Kilmer in Tombstone.  Because you are smart as well as friendly, you’ll talk to the folks around you and they will introduce you to one of the Earp descendants,  who just happens to be eating butterscotch pie with his grandson.   He will offer to send you scans of letters from your ancestor to his that the family has been keeping for over a hundred years, and then he will draw you a map to the private  cemetery where your folks, and his,  are buried.

So here’s my advice.  Use the books we have (929.1072 on the library shelves) to learn how to set up your record keeping and get started.  Use the DCPL databases to begin researching—Heritage Quest is available from home but due to licensing restrictions you have to be in the library to use Ancestry.  Do as much work as you can from the comfort of your armchair but make the time to visit the right courthouse, town or cemetery.  It’s the only way the facts become stories, and the whole point of genealogy is the stories.

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Feb 26 2010

Help Wanted – Optimal Resume

by Lesley B

This month the Library added a new online tool for our patrons – Optimal Resume (available through our Reference Databases page). As the name suggests, Optimal Resume assists you in creating a resume and cover letter but it has many other features that make it a comprehensive aid to job seekers. Every day, library staff help people using our computers make resumes and search for work. We’ve been looking for something that would make it easier for job seekers and Optimal Resume is the best product we’ve seen. It’s used in many college and university career centers and we’re happy to be able to offer it to DeKalb County residents.

To use Optimal Resume, you will need to first set up your account through the library’s website. If you’re accessing the website at home, you will need your library card number and PIN. You only have to go through the Library’s website the first time. Once you’ve set up your account, you can login directly to our Optimal Resume website.

Once you login, you’re taken to the Document Center. The resume and letter sections have lots of professionally written sample resumes and lots of online help (like a link that suggests appropriate “action verbs”). Optimal Resume takes you section by section through the resume process and formats the document for you. You can work with their examples, start your resume from scratch or upload an existing resume. You can customize your resume for different job openings and store all the versions online in your Optimal Resume account. No more keeping your resume as an email attachment or on your flash drive (we have a lot of flash drives in our lost-and-found drawers.)

Beyond creating resumes and letters, Optimal Resume will help you create your own website. You can post your resume, create an online portfolio and more. Your website can be public or password protected. I used several of the sample documents to create a resume and application letter for the imaginary Jane X. Sample. You can see her personal website at http://dekalblibrary.confidentialresume.com/Jane_X_Sample/.

If you have access to a webcam, you can use Optimal Resume to record yourself during a practice interview. A video “coach” offers advice on good ways to answer some of the usual interview questions. It’s a great way to rehearse for a real world interview.

The Libray is offering classes to help you get started with Optimal Resume and staff will be also be available to assist you with the site during any of our “Open Labs for Job Seekers”. Come in and try it out at any of our libraries or at any time from your home computer.

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Feb 12 2010

Who is Brett Favre?

by Amanda L

I often have questions come to me about information concerning a variety of people. The Library has a wonderful resource called Biography Resource Center. I have found that if the person is even remotely famous, you can find information about him/her in this resource.

The type of information available ranges from short biographical entries to very detailed biographical information.  Biography Resource Center often provides links to magazine articles. If you have a library card with us, you can access this resource 24/7 using your library card and PIN number.  It is located on our Reference Database page under the History and Biography section.

To answer my original question, Brett Favre is a quarterback who has been playing professional football since 1991. He has played for the Atlanta Falcons (drafted),  Green Bay Packers,  New York Jets and the Minnesota Vikings. Want to know more about Brett Favre? Check out the Biography Resource Center. Of course, we also have a few biographies about him if you want a more detailed account about his life.

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So here’s how it happened:  I was cruising around on Amazon and I found  a magazine article for sale on a topic in which I have a great interest.   I wanted to read this article but suspected it wasn’t something I was going to want to keep and it was an absolute that I didn’t want to pay $10.00 for the privilege of downloading it.  I know–you think I just went to the magazine’s web page and read the article there, right?  You may be forgiven for thinking that because frequently that is exactly what I do.  In this case though, the magazine didn’t even have a website.  I was not to be denied in my quest and I did the next best thing.  I went to www.dekalblibrary.org, logged on with my library card number and PIN and then chose the Research header on the home page.  I then chose Magazines and Newspapers and clicked on Research Library at ProQuest.  I plugged in the title of the article and there it was.  Guess what–I appreciated the article but  I was awfully glad I didn’t have to cough up a tenner to read it.

But wait!  There’s more!  Hypothetically speaking, you are sitting in your kitchen at 1:30 in the morning, worrying about the smashed bumper on your car, which is your own fault because you were doing something stupid in the driveway.  You can’t sleep for the worry and your brother, who just wants to go to bed says, “If we had a  Chilton’s right now I could tell you if I can fix it with a part from the junkyard.”  You shout, “Hey! We have something that looks exactly like Chilton’s and we can look at it now.”  Then you fire up the computer, go to www.dekalblibrary.org and log in.  After that you choose Reference Databases and then AutoRepair Reference Center and you now know that you can sleep because your brother looks over the pages he needs and says, “Yeah, we can fix it easy, we’ll just call the junkyard in the morning.  Now go to bed.”

See, DeKalb County Public Library is there for me, 24/7, saving me money and sleep.  Take some time to play on our site and get to know what’s there that can save you the same.

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Aug 10 2009

Homework, Help!

by Amanda L

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With school starting back today, homework is not far behind for the students of DeKalb County. How many times as a parent have you had your child come to you early in the evening and say  “I have an assignment due tomorrow morning, and I need to go to the Library!” I know my first thoughts are I don’t want to go out now.  My second thought is usually, the library will be closing shortly or is already closed.

We have a variety of electronic resources that may help you or your child with homework from home. They can be found on our Reference Database page.  For elementary and lower middle school children, many of the resources can be found on our Children’s page. You will need your DeKalb County library card number and your personal identification number (PIN) to access these resources. (The PIN is a 4 digit number.)

For general research help, we have online encyclopedias such as Groliers and Britannica. For social studies homework, there is Grolier’s Passport, Sirs Researcher, Student Resource Center for middle school and younger. For high school or older students, we also have CQ Researcher available.  For Science homework, there is Student Resource Center, Encyclopedia of Animals, and the National Science Digital Library  (available through GALILEO).  For literature homework, there is Literature Criticisms Online and Literature Resources from GALE.

Although the Learning Express Library is listed under test preparation, this resource has several tutorials, tests and diagnostic tests that can help with homework. For instance, they have practice and diagnostic tests for reading comprehension, a variety of math for all levels and vocabulary for high school students. This resource also has a few courses available such as Middle School Writing Courses, and some basic math courses.

Searching for newspaper or journal articles? We have a couple of resources for this type of research. The easiest way to search is to go to GALILEO.  (It will ask you for your library card and PIN numbers and then give you the current password. You will then type in the password to proceed.)  If you click on the search button and type in your keywords, it will search for relevant articles.  These are just a sampling of electronic resources that you have available at your fingertips from home.  Feel free to browse our database page or GALILEO.  If you need specific help on where to start your search, don’t forget to use our Email A Librarian service. It can be found under the Research tab on our home page.  Be sure to select “I need help finding information.”

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Doing research and limited to a certain number of resources? Do not fear the Library is here! As a Reference Librarian, I often help people find sources to answer their questions, or write a paper. Often when it is school related, I hear “I can only use blank number of web sources. I have already checked the Internet.” When I ask if they have checked our Reference Database page, I often hear, I cannot use that because we are limited by the number of Internet sources.

Did you know there is a difference between Internet sources and electronic sources? The Library has electronic resources that are different from a web-based source. What is an Electronic Resource? You access the source through your web browser (Internet Explorer, Foxfire, Safari, Chrome…) but these sources were created in print before they were loaded and available on the Internet.

How do you access them? Go to our home page and click on the Reference Database button. Here you will find a list of resources that we have broken down by category. We have over twenty-six print based electronic resources. A few of these sources do have links to the Internet but most have a print-based component.

Curious to know which one you might be able to use? If you move your mouse over the title a short synopsis will show up and tell you what the resource is about and what it includes. For example, the Biography Resource Center’s synopsis indicates that it draws its information from Reference books, and from journal articles including  the Marquis Who’s Who. The Student Resource Center‘s synopsis indicates that it draws its information from Reference documents, articles and dictionary entries.

Need an example of a source we have on the page that is an Internet Source? Look at The New Georgia Encyclopedia. According to the synopsis, it contains information on people, places, events and histories of Georgia. The site includes articles and images on every aspect of Georgia and links to related Internet sites. I hope this helps you or someone you know the next time there is a paper due. Remember these Electronic sources are available 24/7 through our elibrary.

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Mar 16 2009

Get Your Motor Running

by Nolan R

arrc_logoMoney is tight these days and lots of people are looking for ways to save a few dollars where they can.  If do-it-yourself auto repair is something you’re interested in, the Library has a couple of sources for auto repair information.  The Chilton’s series of auto repair books are available in most branches; some are available for checkout while some volumes are available for in-house reference use only.  If the book you need isn’t available, the Library has another source you might check into for car repair assistance.  Whether you’re wondering how to replace the tailgate on your ’72 Chevy El Camino or looking for a service bulletin for your ’08 Honda CR-V, Auto Repair Reference Center is a great source of auto repair information.

In addition to service bulletins, repair information, and wiring diagrams, Auto Repair Reference Center also provides an Auto IQ section, which provides video descriptions of vehicle parts and systems.  You can find general car care and repair tips, as well as a troubleshooting section.  There’s also an option for printing information.

To use the database, click on Reference Databases from our homepage.  Scroll down to “Consumer” databases and click on Auto Repair Reference Center.  You’ll need to enter your library card number and PIN, then you’ll be given a list of databases to choose from (just select Auto Repair Reference Center again).

Once you’re in the database, just click on the model year for your vehicle, then select the make and model.   Model years begin in 1945 for Jeep only, but more manufacturers show up in the database beginning with the 1960s.

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Dec 22 2008

Confused Consumer

by Ev S

Have you ever been to a home or appliance store and looked at about a million can openers and thought “Which one should I buy?” Me too. In this particular case, it was humidifiers. There’s a bunch out there on the market and I was a little overwhelmed. So I did as all librarians tend to do — I did a little research.

The first place I went was Consumer Reports. I’ve been using Consumer Reports for years to help me buy anything that I want to last for more than a couple of years or that will cost more than a few hundred dollars. CR, for short, is a nonprofit, independent agency that helps us poor befuddled consumers navigate the world of stuff.

I was at home and didn’t want to wait until the next morning to go to work, so I powered up my old computer. I could have gone to the Consumer Reports website.  But you can’t get the entire article without logging in as a member. So I went to our “Reference Databases,” clicked on “Databases A to Z,” and then selected “MasterFILE Premier at EBSCOhost.” This took me to a search page for “MasterFILE Premier”. I did a rather complicated search.  But, it turns out I could have just typed in “Consumer Reports and humidifier”, and I would have gotten the same results. I tried it just to be sure, and got the same results with less typing. Silly me. I got the information that I wanted and so armed, I ventured out into the World Wide Web to buy a humidifier.

Now if I was the patient sort, I could have waited until I got to work the next day and looked at the actual  magazine in the Library. It has the exact same information as on the database.

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