Best Databases | Best Reference 2015

Cheryl LaGuardia and Bonnie Swoger round up the best databases


AudioBlocks VideoBlocks

AudioBlocks and VideoBlocks are stock audio and video subscription services targeted at educational users: teachers, media specialists, instructional designers, web designers, etc.

AudioBlocks offers more than 100,000 royalty-free music tracks, sound effects, and loops, all of which can be downloaded and used in any educational project. VideoBlocks presents over 115,000 professionally created, studio-quality HD video clips, After Effects templates, motion backgrounds, and stock footage—also with lifetime usage rights, royalty-free. There are no download caps in either service; both are updated semimonthly with thousands of new clips and/or tracks.

The image quality is superb, as are the motion and composition of the video. Backgrounds (which include categories such as abstract, energy, music, and shapes) are stunning. Equally compelling are the After Effects templates, too numerous to list here but conceptual and should be browsed to feel their full impact, which is palpable.

Both files are incredibly easy to use, have mass applicability for a variety of educational media projects, and will be useful to students and faculty across the disciplines, from grade school through postgraduate studies. (LJ 6/15/15)

Colonial America Adam Matthew, a SAGE Company

When completed, Colonial America will offer all 1,450 volumes of the CO5 series (records of the British Colonial Office, class 5) from the National Archives, UK, spanning 1606 to 1822. CO5 consists of the original correspondence between the British government and the American colonies. The resource is being released in five modules: the first is Frontier Life, Early Expansion and Rivalries, which chronicles the early history of the colonies.

Essays are scholarly yet accessible to nonhistorians, while popular searches will assist nonexperts in finding relevant ways to search the database. Included in popular searches are lists of governors, places, keywords, and Indian tribes and nations. External links take researchers to 19 potential points of interest.

This is not just a digitized record of files from the National Archives; Adam Matthew has considerably enhanced an already rich trove of documents in creating this remarkable, multilayered product. Large research libraries and sizable library consortia should consider purchase. There should be at least one copy of Colonial America in each state, accessible to all American history researchers. (LJ 11/15/15)

InteLex Past Masters Online Catalogue InteLex Corporation

Past Masters (PM) is a full-text database of selected primary source electronic editions in philosophy. Published in TEI (Text Encoding Initiative)–conformant XML and full-text searchable image formats, PM uses an enhanced version of the open source XTF platform developed by the California Digital Library. Disciplines cover from American, British, classical, continental, and medieval philosophy to English letters, religious studies, social science, and women writers.

PM includes 171 separate collections on figures such as British novelist Mary Shelley, Greek philosopher Plato, and many others. The navigation works wonderfully well, expanding to give the utmost information about the contents (again, reassuring that nothing has been omitted in this ­e-edition) as well as ready access to that content.

The system’s book reader allows for highly legible PDFs, and patrons can quickly scan thumbnail images of an entire book. Astonishing in breadth and depth, the content in this formidable file, as well as the research material included in every one of the scholarly editions available, is superb throughout. (LJ 6/1/15)

Kanopy Streaming Kanopy

Kanopy Streaming sells itself informally as “Netflix for colleges” and on its website as “on-demand streaming video service for educational institutions.” Kanopy collects video from a wide variety of producers such as PBS, the BBC, and Criterion Collection. The database focuses on documentary film, but a significant number of historical or artistically important feature films are also available.

The interface is incredibly user-friendly for both students and faculty. Because Kanopy includes MARC records, librarians may discover videos via their local OPAC or discovery platform. Some videos offer transcripts that are viewable as the video plays. As with video platforms YouTube and Netflix, Kanopy offers a list of videos including other films in a series or on similar topics.

As of late 2015, there were more than 12,400 available videos in ten major subjects, e.g., film, business, education, health, and social sciences. The diversity of licensing models makes this an excellent choice for streaming video for K–12 institutions and especially colleges and universities. (LJ 10/1/15)

Quetzal Quertle

Quetzal is a search interface for several freely available databases in the biomedical sciences, such as PubMed, PubMed Central, TOXLINE, and US Patents. The file applies its own ontology to provide users with more relevant results than they could find otherwise; the goal is to understand the intent of the searcher rather than just complete the query. To this end, Quetzal emphasizes the actions connecting key words and analyzes the author’s language to identify these links.

One of the most powerful Quetzal components is the use of PowerTerms™, which represent an entire class of related concepts. Other Quetzal features include the ability to create lists and add notes to indexed items, a private journal club feature for discussing research papers, and a list of actions related to the search (increase, induction, contribution, etc.). These “key concepts” are incredibly beneficial for refining a search or exploring related ideas.

The Quetzal search tool is a great way of browsing PubMed, and the professional and advanced-level subscriptions would benefit research-heavy biomedical institutions or companies. (LJ 9/15/15)

Statista Statista

Statista is an online statistics aggregator providing business, marketing, demographic, and economic data. The company has supplemented statistical information with company dossiers, topical reports, and high-quality infographics.

With an international focus, the resource offers statistics on a wide variety of industries and topics such as communications, education, health care, and tourism. While much of the government data is freely available on other websites, Statista makes this information easy to find and use. As the site mixes this freely available knowledge with proprietary industry facts (from industry reports and other sources), it creates a powerful tool for researchers.

Subscribers also have easy access to the more than 1,400 infographics produced by the company over the past four years, in addition to reports about various businesses and dossiers on particular companies. The ability to download this information swiftly lets users combine information sets, do their own analyses, and develop their own graphics.

Academic business and social science programs would benefit from this easy-to-use source of statistical data as will special libraries associated with many types of businesses. (LJ 5/15/15)

Cheryl LaGuardia is a Research Librarian at the Widener Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. Bonnie J.M. Swoger is the Science and Technology Librarian, SUNY Geneseo’s Milne Library

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