Best Databases of 2017

The year's best databases include resources on congressional research and the ACLU

American Civil Liberties Union Papers

In 2017, Gale released two portions of this new database: “The Making of Modern Law (MML): American Civil Liberties Union Papers, 1912–1990” and “Southern Regional Office Collection (SROC).” Both installments offer material from an iconic organization that is pertinent to any research on civil rights in this country. MML provides a national view of civil rights in the years covered, specifically including, said LJ’s review, “access to more than two million pages of reports, correspondence, legal briefs, newspaper clippings, U.S. Supreme Court cases, and information on groups that have worked with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).” Material in SROC, meanwhile, documents the organization’s fight to enforce the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in 13 Southern states. Both collections comprise digitized versions of papers held by the ACLU and the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Collection at Princeton University, NJ. (LJ 3/1/17)

History of Mass Tourism

In recent years, Adam Matthew Digital (AMD) has announced a series of databases that offer crisp, comprehensive, and well-organized digital access to treasures that were previously viewable only in person, and even then, not to everyone. One such product launched in 2017, the company’s History of Mass Tourism. AMD explains that the database focuses on the “evolution of British and American working class tourism from c.1850 to 1980.” This era, noted our reviewer, saw the birth of tourism as an industry. The digitized primary sources presented here largely include booklets, pamphlets, guides, maps, itineraries, and other promotional materials published by the groundbreaking British travel agency Thomas Cook. Tourism is a subject of study in itself, but the nature of this material means that it can also be used in libraries that support students of business and history. (LJ 2/1/17)


According to the 2015 SAGE white paper “Great Expectations: Students and Video in Higher Education,” “79% of students voluntarily watch videos to enhance their understanding of a learn the steps necessary to do something successfully, to understand the practical application of a theoretical concept, or to find a video that they can use during their own presentations.” Patrons in both public and academic libraries also expect easy access to videos because of the availability of ­Netflix and such services at home. Enter Kanopy, which provides library-subscribed, on-demand streaming video. Offering more than 30,000 feature films, Kanopy allows patrons to watch documentaries and international, foreign-language, and independent films from leading academic and other producers. Kanopy is not just YouTube for pay. Not only is the quality and search experience completely different, the company takes note of library purchasing practice. Among other details, our review explained that “libraries can purchase individual videos or collections or set up a patron driven acquisitions (PDA) profile (for higher education institutions) and cost per play for public libraries.” (LJ 10/15/17)

Oxford Research Encyclopedias

The days are gone when scholars can ignore information that is free on the web, but they still rightly prefer peer-reviewed research. Oxford University Press’s Oxford Research Encyclopedias, released in 2017, combines the best of both worlds, offering free and subscription-only information in one product. The for-pay material was reviewed in LJ last year, with our reviewer noting that while the database is suitable for experts, it will also find success with relative novices. The subjects covered are African History, American History, Asian History, Business and Management, Climate Science, Communication, Criminology and Criminal Justice, Economics, Education, Encyclopedia of Social Work (subscription required), Environmental Science, Global Public Health, Latin American History, Linguistics, Literature, Natural Hazard Science, Neuroscience, Oxford Classical Dictionary (subscription required), Planetary Science, Politics, Psychology, and Religion. (LJ 3/15/17)

ProQuest Congressional Research Digital Collection

Accusations of fake news are the new “he said, she said,” but the information presented to members of Congress to aid them in their decisions—called Congressional Research Reports—remain reliable views of the decisions facing our government. These reports, explains ProQuest, are sometimes available online, but this database provides the only comprehensive collection. Since members of Congress cannot be experts on every topic that comes before them, the reports offer an impartial and thorough overview of related issues. This also makes these documents perfect for students writing reports and preparing for debates, not to mention those of us who want to be better informed but are far from Beltway policy wonks.

Honorable Mention

Omnigraphics’ Health Reference Series Online

Though our reviewer noted that the search experience needed some improvement, Omnigraphics’s e-version of its health reference books must be given an honorable mention in this best list. It provides welcome material for public libraries, where elderly patrons in particular seek easy-to-access and reliable health information. The material from these print reference standbys also offers handy non-­Wikipedia overviews for students of health and medicine who need a brush-up on the basics. (LJ 5/15/17)

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