Best Free Reference Resources 2023

Free reference sources, vetted, smart, and endlessly useful, are a rich resource for scholars and students. Here are our five top picks for 2023.


Climate Change and Human Health Literature Portal

Created by the United States’ National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences as part of its outstanding Resources for Scientists database, this site offers unprecedented access to climate- and health-related literature published between 2007 and 2023. The wide-ranging content features peer-reviewed research and gray literature from the biomedical, ecological, and geophysical sciences. Information focuses primarily on health impacts associated with climate variability/change and weather-related natural disasters.

C-SPAN Video Library

A stellar and comprehensive video library that houses all of C-SPAN’s content from September 1987 through 2017. The archive currently contains over 230,000 hours of material, including congressional hearings, White House daily briefings, commencement speeches, and interviews. Videos are accompanied by full transcripts; dates, locations, and timestamps for each clip are clearly marked. Users can create their own clips, and options for bookmarking, embedding, and sharing are readily available.

Ohio University Library Digital Archival Collections

Ohio University offers free access to its rich digitized collections, which include fully catalogued and described manuscripts, photographs, fine art, Civil War correspondence, and much more. Of special interest is the Don Swaim Collection, which features 888 interviews conducted by journalist Don Swaim with authors and editors, including Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison, Pulitzer Prize winner Ray Bradbury, and Booker Prize winner Margaret Atwood.


This unique resource combines AI technology with web search capabilities, allowing users to conduct conversational, natural-language-based queries and receive responsive results accompanied by citations and links to relevant sources. The ad-free platform relies on the Perplexity Copilot, a tool that asks follow-up questions, summarizes the most relevant findings, and pulls from a variety of vetted, traceable sources. The free plan allows five Copilot queries every four hours.

Studs Terkel Radio Archive

An exciting digital archive that houses over 2,000 radio programs created by broadcaster Studs Terkel during his decades-long career at Chicago’s WFMT. The stunning interface allows users to explore by topic (advocacy, television, sports, the Great Depression), people (artists, academics, historians), date, and keyword. Additional features include curatorial commentary, educational curricula, opportunities to reuse and remix audio, and an original podcast.

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