All-in-One AccessScience and Gale Engage | Reference eReview

Well organized and easy to search, it features a great breadth and depth of content from highly regarded contributors; high schoolers and general consumers of science information will be comfortable using this database.

McGraw Hill


AccessScience makes digitally available the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science & Technology, the McGraw-Hill Yearbook of Science & Technology, and several other reference works and sources. The database boasts 8,700 encyclopedia articles that cover all science disciplines, 115,000 definitions from the McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms, 19,000 illustrations of key scientific concepts, 3,000 biographies of scientific figures from the Hutchinson Dictionary of Scientific Biography, video biographies of Franklin Institute Award winners, and hundreds of briefings on science and technology concepts. 

Besides its comprehensive content, the archive offers links to citable literature, an interactive citation generator, curriculum maps, and off-campus access. Other features that enhance both the material and educational support are editor picks, popular articles of the week, and a “Do You Know” question—all found on the homepage. AccessScience works with all open URL link resolvers, incorporates easily into LibGuides, is accessible from any browser, and provides usage statistics through a subscriber portal. 


Functionality and navigation are excellent. The homepage has a clean look, with nine major entry point buttons at the top: “home,” “articles,” “briefings,” “news,” “biographies,” “media,” “projects,” “for faculty,” and “for admin.” 

Selecting “articles” retrieves all scholarly reviews in the database, which can then be accessed either alphabetically or topically. “Briefings” are short essays, such as the effects of Australian wildfires on koalas, or the discovery of vast populations of black holes in the Milky Way, that are likewise grouped in alphabetical order and by topic. Under “news,” users will find articles organized by month from 2017 to 2020. 

“Biographies” include fascinating accounts of notable scientists searchable either by alphabet or topic. Under “media,” researchers will discover about 30 videos and animations, such as “All About Gluten” and “Coffee Chemistry,” as well as images galleries related to the human brain, venomous fishes, supernova remnants, and other topics. “Projects” include DIY activities, in six areas (biology and biomedicine, computing and information technology, earth science, engineering and materials, food science and technology, and physics). Located at the bottom of the page are links to information about the resource, “help” and “frequently asked questions,” and “troubleshooting.”

The “for faculty” page contains links to Next Generation Science Standards, a search widget for embedding the database into learning management systems or faculty web pages, tips for using the database, an astronomy lesson plan, answers to “test your understanding” questions, and 21 valuable curriculum maps that incorporate charts, graphs, and photos. Under “for admin,” educators can find links to usage statistics, user guides, tips, training webinars, and a help page. 

Below the major entry level buttons are a “basic search” box, a link for “advance searching,” “topic browse,” and “article browse by alphabet.” Underneath the “basic search” box are 20 subject areas for browsing, from agriculture, forestry, and soils to zoology. 

Retrieved entries can be saved, emailed, printed, shared, or linked. Articles and media can be cited in APA, MLA, Chicago, and Council of Science Editors formats and downloaded into citation software including Zotero, Mendeley, and Endnote. Users can create a personal account and set up remote access by downloading a Roaming Passport to a mobile device, tablet, or laptop.
Currency is a strength as monthly updates are accessible via the “new and noteworthy” link at the bottom of the homepage and the “news” tag at the top. Recent articles address relevant topics such as the use of social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the virus’s impact on young adults.


Fees vary; for more information, contact


AccessScience has been a standard library reference source for years with good reason. Well organized and easy to search, it features a great breadth and depth of content from highly regarded contributors. Although a good portion of subject material is aimed at a higher-level audience, high schoolers and general consumers of science information will be comfortable using it. The usability, resources for educators, and strong material of AccessScience make it a top choice for high school, college and university, and public libraries. 

Rob Tench is a Librarian at Old Dominion University Libraries, Norfolk, VA


Gale Engage 


Designed to give a thorough view of library performance and aid in overcoming common public library challenges, Gale Engage improves upon its predecessor, Gale Analytics. After years of consulting with public libraries, Gale aims to help libraries understand patron activity and assist in creating a dynamic marketing strategy to capture patrons’ interests through analyzing data already available. Rather than libraries relying on a number of sources to evaluate usage, this tool brings everything into one location, ingesting data from a library’s ILS—currently compatible with SirsiDynix, Polaris, Sierra, and OBI—and allowing users to personalize the information to their needs. 

Gale clearly shares librarians’ commitment to safeguarding patron privacy, instituting end-to-end encryption on patron data and ensuring that only data required for analysis is ingested through the browser. Gale is not involved in collecting or maintaining patron data and cannot access the plain text from their end. In addition, patron IDs and email addresses are hashed out, requiring a password to decrypt email addresses and allowing administrators to limit staff access as needed. 


Upon logging in, users will find a clean, minimalist layout, featuring a link to their library or libraries. With only the Gale Engage title border and account sign-in located in the top right of the page, the database is extremely user-friendly and font and text layout are pleasing. Once the library is selected, the resource defaults to the dashboard, quickly loading data modules that users have customized. Personalization is key to Gale Engage, as users select the graphs and diagrams visualizing library and patron data most relevant. Several options appear above the dashboard viewing panel, allowing users to shuffle to other data categories, such as circulation, patron status, and marketing. Each module features a plus sign icon, making it simple to add as many as desired to the dashboard. Library staff will appreciate having the relevant data in one space as they gain a more thorough understanding of their library and community.

The left side of the page features a navigation menu that marks the functions important to most public libraries: planning, people, marketing, facilities, and admin. Users can easily return to the dashboard at any time. Selecting “admin” expands the menu to display several options, including “setup,” which walks users through tailoring the resource to their library, from creating an encryption key to importing patron and usage data to adding users. The administrator may choose user roles and manage data by entering the encryption key, allowing for further customization across the platform. 

While Gale Engage offers tools helpful for intralibrary usage, such as planning and facilities, the resource shines when it comes to what libraries can do with the imported data. Under “metrics,” librarians can measure their data against that of the national average, as well as that of the state, region, comparable-sized libraries, or a customized comparison group. 

In addition, by gathering the types of materials checked out, the platform assigns tags to patrons, detailing their interests and library activity while still maintaining their privacy through hashed-out IDs. Depending on the library’s data grouping, librarians may have to enter data regarding library program attendance manually, but once that info is in place, patrons can be tagged for their programming preferences. By taking advantage of the grouping tools, librarians can improve their marketing strategy, sending out communications personalized to patrons through email lists associated with the different tags—ideally improving patrons’ connection to the library as their interests are recognized, as well as helping the community understand what the library offers and reaching those who are not regular library patrons. It is important to note that users are unable to contact patrons unless they have the encryption key; only the administrator can decide who gets access to the key. 

While users may craft emails from scratch, they can also rely on and create templates, resulting in visually appealing, professional drafts that are easy to edit. The marketing function includes social media management, allowing users to keep their message consistent. 


Cost starts at $12,000 and is based on library size and population served. A demo of the product can be requested at


While libraries are used to having a plethora of data, the need to protect patron privacy has previously limited the usefulness of this information. This invaluable new tool now offers a way to tap this data. 

Setting out to help libraries overcome challenges with customizability and ease of use at the forefront, Gale Engage is highly recommended for all public libraries. 

Katie McGaha is the Adult/Teen Services Librarian at L.A. County Library, Agoura Hills.

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