BPL Databases with Accurate Information Available for All Your Subject Needs

by Kelly Laney, Springville Road Regional Branch Library

The internet can be a wonderful resource, but many people do not realize that there are no laws, rules, regulations, or anything else that guarantees the accuracy or currency of anything online. There is great information to be found, but if you don’t know how to separate the good from the bad, it’s easy to unknowingly misinform yourself. That’s one of the greatest benefits of the subject resources and databases available online through the Birmingham Public Library. The sources recommended and linked through the site have been vetted by information professionals, and you can be sure you’re getting “the good stuff” if you access them through the library.

A lot of the databases listed are by subscription, meaning that the library pays for them just as we pay for magazine and reference books. Patrons of the library access these online resources at no cost, just the same as they do print materials, except that with many of them, patrons don’t even have to be in the library. We’re always glad to see you, but when you need information after the library has closed, it’s a snap to get it. The databases also provide for constant revision and updating, so the information is more accurate and current than it would be in a print resource.

Another advantage of using the databases is the citation tool provided. If you are working on a school or work paper, you can instantly find out the correct way to cite your resources. No more looking it up in a style manual; you can choose from a menu citing the work by MLA, APA, Chicago Style, and many others. What a time saver!

You can select peer-reviewed articles, full-text articles, or specific formats: charts, images, graphs, etc. You can also research current events to form your own informed decision. By viewing Opposing Viewpoints in Context you can put in a search term on just about any subject. Experts on all sides of an issue have stated their best cases, so you can read all of them to help you make up your mind.

To access the databases, go to www.bplonline.org and click on Databases. The next screen will show you a drop down menu from which you can select over a hundred resources. Choose the one you want and click on Go. If you’re not in a library, you’ll be prompted for your library card number. Some of our databases are not licensed for off-site access (such as Ancestry Library Edition), so you’ll have to be at the library to connect. Your library card opens an entire virtual library for your convenience.

If you’re working on a college paper and need articles, choose Academic Search Premier. If you need information on current events, choose Infotrac or General OneFile. If you need to study for an entrance or occupation exam, go to LearningExpressLibrary. Need an automobile manual? Choose Chilton Automotive. Not all the resources listed are paid subscriptions; some are websites that provide great info, such as MedlinePlus and Tuition Funding Sources. Some are print resources that are available in digital format, such as the Merck Manuals and the CIA World Factbook. All provide opportunities to find accurate and current information.

Please don’t forget that your local libraries are staffed with trained information professionals who can help you find what you need, and teach you how to do research on any topic. Patrons sometimes apologize for “interrupting” or “disturbing” us, and I also answer the same way: That’s what I’m here for! So the next time you need the best information, visit the library either physically or virtually and make sure you get “the good stuff.” If you’re at the library and need some help, please ask us!


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