Monday, January 26, 2015

Focus on Databases

As noted before on this blog, there are no laws, rules, or regulations stating that anything put on the Internet has to be correct, valid, current, or scholarly. ANYBODY can put ANYTHING on the Internet! This is why some teachers tell their classes that they cannot use the Internet for resources—it prevents them from going to Google or Wikipedia and coming up with questionable research. Now here’s the good news: The Internet, used wisely, can be an awesome source for research. The key is to know where to look.

That’s where library databases come into play. The database links from the Birmingham Public Library homepage connect you to sources that have been checked for accuracy, validity, and currency. Some of these databases are links to external websites, like CIA World Factbook or Medlineplus, but most of them are subscriptions your library pays for that would cost you money if you accessed them outside of the library portal. In other words, your library card gives you access to tons of valuable information, and does the research for you to make sure it’s “good stuff.” Best of all, it’s all FREE to library members!

February is Black History Month, so I’m highlighting three incredibly fabulous sources for information to complete homework assignments next month. Heads up!

The Oxford African American Studies Center provides students, teachers, and scholars with an authoritative and comprehensive source on the African American experience. The site is comprised of five major encyclopedias and content from eighteen additional reference sources from Oxford University Press, including more than 8,000 articles by top scholars in the field. The Oxford African American Studies Center combines the authority of carefully edited reference works with sophisticated technology to create the most comprehensive collection of scholarship available online to focus on the lives and events which have shaped African American and African history and culture.

African-American History Online covers topics such as affirmative action, Africa, black nationalism, civil rights, emancipation, free blacks, the Harlem Renaissance, migrations, racial violence and hate crimes, religion, slave living conditions, slave liberation strategies, social work and philanthropy, sports, and visual arts.

Biography In Context contains biographical information on more than a million notable historical and contemporary individuals. Facts, summaries, articles, and pictures.

To access these databases:

  • Go to the Birmingham Public Library homepage:  
  • Click on Databases
  • Use the Database Quick Links scroll down menu to highlight the database you’d like to examine, and click on Go
  • If you are not in a library, you will get a screen which requires you to enter your name and your library card number. Click on submit after typing them in and the database will open. 
  • Follow the instructions to search the database for your subject or topic 

Note the citation information which shows you exactly how to correctly cite the work for your paper. If you’re working in a group you can even e-mail or share the information directly through the database.

Should you have any questions or need help, contact your local library and information professionals will gladly assist you. That’s actually a good tip—anytime you need to find any kind of information, contact your local library!

Kelly Laney
Adult and Teen Services
Springville Road Library

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