Saturday, March 26, 2011

MeL Databases

What would we do without Michigan eLibrary databases? They are the great equalizer among libraries in Michigan. No matter what type of library they use throughout the state, residents of Michigan have access to a core collection of electronic resources. If funding for MeL databases is threatened, there will be a great divide between the "haves" and the "have-nots."

I recently filled out a survey about the value of specific MeL databases to my daily work. Here are my top ten, along with the reasons why I've chosen them. These are in alphabetic order, not preference.

1. Academic OneFile
This is a Gale database of mostly full-text journal articles and other reference resources on a wide variety of subjects. This is ideal for college students who do research in public libraries, since public libraries typically don't subscribe to academic journals or text books. There are several colleges and universities within about ten miles of where I work, so we get a lot of academic, college-level research questions.

2. Books & Authors
Another Gale database. This used to be called "What Do I Read Next" and is a great reader advisory tool. There are book lists, author information, subject essays, and series lists. It also covers both fiction and non-fiction.

3. Business and Company Resource Center
Hmmm...another Gale database. I swear I'm not biased. This is a mostly full-text database of articles, company profiles and histories, brand and industry information, rankings, and investment reports. It is appropriate for business people, business students, and average-Joe investors.

4. eLibrary Elementary
This one is a ProQuest database, marketed towards children. Don't be fooled by its cutesiness, though - it is wonderful for all ages! Full-text articles, reference books exerpts, maps, pictures, radio and TV show terms of favorites, this is in my top three. It has an easy interface to use, it gives the reading level of articles, and it has both audio and video as well as text sources. Love it!

5. General OneFile
Aaaaand we're back to Gale. This is a great choice for lay-people and students. It includes mostly full-text articles from periodicals and newspapers on a huge variety of topics. This is a great starting point for general users.

6. Health and Wellness Resource Center
Gale again. Here you can find articles in health journals, pamphlets, videos, and links to reputable health web sites. It includes a health dictionary, alternative medicine, and drug information. It is incredibly user-friendly, and the results are lay-person friendly (unlike the Health Reference Center Academic, which is a great database, but very, very academic. I can read and understand the articles found in Health & Wellness Resource Center, but rarely in the academic database.)

7. HeritageQuest
This is another ProQuest database. If I had to choose between Ancestry or HeritageQuest, I'd go with Ancestry. Since that isn't a choice in MeL, I think it's important to have a genealogy database available in libraries (this one is not available remotely), so I'm adding this one to my top 10. The census images are useful, and it includes local and family histories. There are thousands of digitized books in this database! There are also tax lists, city directories, and probate records, as well as Revolutionary War Pension files and the Freedman’s Bank Records...and more!

8. Learning Express Library
This is a unique database from Learning Express, LLC. It includes practice tests for all kinds of certification, licensing, and academic tests. It also includes a section on job assessment. What a great way to take practice tests, which are timed and scored! Libraries with budget and space concerns can offer test prep resources outside of books. The number and variety of tests are staggering - very useful, practical, and realistic!

(9. I'm counting MelCat as a separate MeL service, not a database, but it is 100% crucial. #1 on my list if it counted here. I'm not counting any of the portals, like Michigana.)

9. NetLibrary
Here is an Ebsco database. I'm on the fence about this one. In theory, I love having access to thousands of digital books that don't require software downloads or digital devices. They are mostly non-fiction and classic literature, and tend toward the academic. This is great for college students who use the public library and for research when the instructor requires a certain number of book-format sources. My problem with NetLibrary is that the titles seem to be kind of old (health and financial titles from the late 90's and early 2000's), and the system requires that an account be created on a library computer. Patrons can't just log in with their library card number as they do for all the other MeL database. To check a book out in NetLibrary they have to have a separate account, and that account had to be created on a computer with an IP address associated with a Michigan library. This is all kind of a hassle. You can browse the titles for a certain amount of time without checking them out, though, and there is content in NetLibrary that I wouldn't be able to get as quickly if I had to inter-library loan it in print.

10. WorldCat
Right from OCLC! We use this for looking up availability of books via inter-library loan. Aything not available through MelCat gets looked up in WorldCat next. I have also used it to find descriptors (subject headings) to expand a subject search. It's a staple for book-specific searching (and magazines too), even though you just get a citation and not the actual item through this database.

Honorable Mentions:

New York Times
Gale! All full-text back to 1985! Nice.

Newsbank Michigan Newspapers
Created by Newsbank. This includes full text from the Detroit News (1999 to current) and the Grand Rapids Press (2002 to current), plus a few dozen national news magazines. This is a great source for current events projects and finding specific articles from back issues.

SIRS Discoverer Deluxe
This is a Proquest database for kids. I REALLY wanted to include this in the top 10! I like their subject categories, like countries, health, and current events. In addition to print, it includes video and audio. You can get articles from children's magazines like Weekly Reader, as well as youth-oriented encyclopedias and reference books. I almost want to swap NetLibrary for this one on my top ten list.

What are your top ten MeL databases?


  1. Some public libraries have even more comprehensive subscription for Newsbank Michigan Newspapers and MAN OH MAN do I love me some NewsBank. The Obituary and Death Index is phenomenal. I actually work in philanthropy and NewsBank has a special subscription for Development offices that we looked into. NewsBank has some great stuff. I'm still a bit disgruntled that Wayne State dumped their subscription.

  2. It was pointed out to me that I've implied here that Heritage Quest is not available remotely. It is! That was bad wording, sorry. It's the Ancestry Library Edition that is not available remotely.

  3. Which is why we were not able to provide Ancestry via MeL :-(