Superb Free Resources & Websites | Best Reference 2019

A roundup of the best free resources, from a way to identify bots on social media to an app geared at helping those with low vision. 


Bot Sentinel

It’s tough to distinguish real from fake news on Twitter, but these two sites that help identify which Twitter accounts are “bots,” or automated accounts, many associated with targeted harassment campaigns, makes it a little easier.

College Scorecard

Previously this resource, which profiles colleges and universities, offered information on a schools’ graduates’ median earnings and debt; now that content is organized by field of study. Users can also figure out graduation rates for full-time, part-time, first-time, and transfer students—all information to help students make the strongest choices when applying.

Environment at a Glance

The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development has a new platform devoted to how different nations measure up when it comes to environmental indicators related to air quality or climate change (such as carbon footprint or CO2 emissions). Users can compare countries’ progress, sort data by nation or indicator, compare trends, and more.

Event Registry

Whether users are curious about natural disasters in the United States, or eager to find German news on refugees, this tool helps them make the most of web searches through filters such as location, source, and category. Event Registry is far more powerful than other web search tools, and though it’s free, users who pay get even more options, such as search results that go farther back in time.

Microsoft Soundscape

Described as “a map delivered in 3D sound,” this iOS app (for iPhone 5S or later) uses audio guidance to help those who are blind or have low vision navigate their environment.

PEN International

Founded in London in 1921, PEN International fights for intellectual freedom, fosters a community of writers, and comes to the defense of writers facing censorship. The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin has made digitally available thousands of materials—photos, correspondence, and ephemera—documenting PEN International’s work.


A new version of PubMed, the free search engine that allows users to access the MEDLINE database on medical and life science subjects, is available, and this spring it will become the default version. The layout is more responsive and easily adaptable to mobile devices, and search functionality is improved.

Tuition Tracker

Relaunched last fall to reflect data for the 2020–21 academic year, this site helps incoming college students and their parents compare college tuition: both the “sticker price” (what schools advertise) and “net price” (what students will actually pay, broken down by income bracket).

Wayback Machine’s Save Now Page

Since 1996, the Internet Archive has been archiving the internet, launching the Wayback Machine in 2001. The “Save Page Now” feature has been significantly updated—now when users archive a webpage, they can also save any links included.


Wikimedia collects millions of photos that are in the public domain, but how to winnow all those down to the perfect one? Enter wikiview—users can find options by typing in search terms, uploading an existing image, or indicating a color. Results are presented in an easily manipulated 2-D image map of results.

Gary Price aggregates LJ’s INFOdocket, and Mahnaz Dar is Reference & Professional Reading Editor, LJ & School Library Journal

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