Must-Have Databases for Academic and Public Libraries 2020

Covering topics such as Black studies, business, history, nature, statistics, and technology, the following databases will help academic and public libraries meet the research needs of patrons—a task that's become even more difficult now that access to physical materials is more limited owing to the pandemic.

Both public and academic libraries have winnowed print reference collections as they strive to meet the growing need for data, streaming videos, and reliable information from reputable sources at a time when distinguishing “fake news” from verifiable material is harder than ever. Online resources have become even more essential since March, when the COVID-19 pandemic suspended or limited patron access to physical libraries.

Covering topics such as Black studies, business, history, nature, statistics, and technology, the following databases (all of which are subscription-based unless indicated otherwise) will help libraries meet these needs. All exhibit user-friendly design, reliable scholarship, and relevance for patrons with a wide range of research skills. Most of these selections offer both visual and textual content. All will be useful to academic and public library patrons alike unless otherwise noted.



Black Studies Center is ProQuest’s customizable database for Black, Africana, and African American studies. Its centerpiece is the Schomburg Studies on the Black Experience: 30 scholarly essays accompanied by 2,000 images, 200 film clips, readings, time lines, and reference works such as the Handbook of African American Literature. Also included are the International Index to Black Periodicals (a full-text index of Black Studies scholarship containing hundreds of journals) and the archives of influential Black newspaper Chicago Defender (1910–75). Libraries can buy add-on modules for Black studies dissertations, Black historical newspapers, and oral histories. While the platform needs a refresh, Black Studies Center delivers reliable content for scholars, high school and college students, and members of the public seeking to learn about Black history and culture.

Oxford African American Studies Center (AASC) is the premier reference database for Africana, Black, and African American studies. Produced by Oxford University Press and edited by scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., AASC contains more than 20,000 encyclopedia articles, 2,500 images, 700 annotated primary sources, and hundreds of maps and charts. Sourced from top Oxford reference works, including African American National Biography and Black Women in America, the content is scholarly but readable. Users can browse by era (before 1400, the Civil War, etc.), subject (history, religion and spirituality, etc.), and occupation (health and medicine, writing and publishing, etc.). The new product platform is user-friendly with mobile-responsive design.



Mergent Intellect is a powerful business research tool from FTSE Russell with data on 280 million public and private companies (both active and inactive), 100 million executives, and business family trees that include almost all U.S. companies. Dun & Bradstreet’s Key Business Ratios and First Research industry intelligence reports facilitate analysis of industry trends and risk. Partnering with Whitepages Pro, Mergent provides consumer data covering 255 million people and 130 million in the United States, including demographic, census, and contact information. By partnering with Indeed, Mergent also delivers a robust job search platform that surfaces listings from 21 million employers. Career development officers, business communities, and academics will appreciate the data’s quality and scope and the product’s user-friendly interface.



Credo Reference is the gold standard for general reference. College and university libraries can opt for the Academic Core ebook collection, which features three million entries from reputable encyclopedias, handbooks, and other reference works covering criminal justice, health and wellness, politics, business, science, the arts, contemporary issues and controversies, and many other subjects. School libraries can opt for Credo Source Reference, which offers a simplified user interface with 400 reference titles and 1.5 million entries curated for grades six through 12. Credo offers Topic Pages to collate resources on thousands of topics, pro/con perspectives on controversial topics, and Mind Maps that enable patrons to visualize relationships among topics. Although some colleges may find Credo too cursory, most students will find it tremendously helpful.

Oxford Very Short Introductions is a book series from Oxford University Press introducing an incredible range of subjects to general audiences. Short, concise, and eminently readable (most have fewer than 200 pages) with colorful covers, these titles go beyond mere recitation of facts. Each was written by an expert—often a celebrated scholar—and contains penetrating analysis on topics from the abolition of slavery to Zionism. Authors deliver balanced and comprehensive overviews, frequently laced with enough wit and anecdote to entertain as well as enlighten. Any of the nearly 700 titles in this marvelous series can be assigned to classes, snapped up by curious readers, or perused by specialists eager to explore a new field.



Exploring disease, fitness, medication, nutrition, substance abuse, medical specialties such as oncology, and more, EBSCO’s Consumer Health Complete contains the full text of 490 scholarly journals and popular magazines (such as Bicycling, Health, and Prevention), 650 books and encyclopedias, and thousands of pamphlets, evidence-based reports, images, and multimedia, particularly on the topics of teen and senior health. While some material is dated, the overall quality, currency, and range of content are impressive enough to appeal to patients and health professionals in settings such as public libraries, schools, clinics, and colleges. Note that licensed health-care providers should be consulted for any medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Made freely available by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus is an online portal for consumer health information, aimed at patients and their loved ones. Its centerpiece is the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia, an illustrated and continually updated reference source with 4,000-plus articles about diseases, tests, symptoms, injuries, and surgeries. Visitors will find information on medical tests, genetics, and drugs and supplements, as well as healthy recipes and useful videos. Hundreds of topic pages curate links to other reliable resources. Users can toggle seamlessly between English and Spanish. Unlike the for-profit WebMD health website, MedlinePlus features no advertising or product endorsements.



AP Newsroom, from EBSCO, features more than 12 million photographs dating back as far as 1826, 36,000 audio clips and newscasts, 340,000 charts and graphics, and top stories from the Associated Press (AP), one of the world’s oldest and largest news agencies. Image metadata is extensive, and new images are added daily. Launched in 2019, the new AP Newsroom web interface is mobile-friendly and gives a cleaner and more modern look and feel than its predecessor, AP Images Collection. Subscribers receive dual access to both the old AP Images Collection via EBSCOhost and the new AP Newsroom. Students, researchers, and members of the public will appreciate AP Newsroom’s global coverage, stunning photos, and accessible platform.

Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is a U.S.-based nonprofit organization and a free web discovery platform. DPLA offers a one-stop discovery experience for more than 40 million digital cultural heritage objects—images, text, videos, and audio clips—aggregated from 40-plus libraries, archives, and museums across the United States. Patrons can access by topic and by contributing institution; browsing by institution (Portal to Texas History; Digital Maine) also allows users to explore the cultural heritage of various states.



Available in both academic and school editions, the American Mosaic: The Latino American Experience from ABC-CLIO offers more than 2,500 reference and primary sources that illuminate Hispanic, Latinx, and Chicanx history and culture. Images and audio clips, including music, speeches, and murals, accompany the texts. Zoot Suit and other acclaimed play scripts provide compelling insights into Chicano culture. Included are more than 700 biographies of famous people from Simón Bolívar to Sonia Sotomayor. Community college and secondary school students and teachers, homeschooling families, and public library patrons will appreciate this database, though it may be too elementary for most academics.

Digitalia delivers a uniquely large and diverse collection of Spanish-language ebooks, including popular fiction, biographies, and scholarly works. Digitalia Hispánica, the academic edition, features more than 30,000 ebooks and 5,000 journals from dozens of mostly Latin American and Iberian publishers. Coverage is strongest in Spanish history, literature, and culture but includes thousands of STEM titles, too. Unlimited simultaneous users may access it, and books can be read online or downloaded for 21 days at a time. Digitalia for Public Libraries provides thousands of popular fiction and nonfiction titles: romances, thrillers, cooking, sports, self-help, children’s literature, and more. Much of this content is available online exclusively via Digitalia.



Drama Online, Bloomsbury’s all-in-one multimedia database covering theater and literature, features 2,600-plus scripts, 400 audio plays, 325 video plays, and 370 scholarly books. Content is both classic and contemporary, and strongest when it comes to William Shakespeare’s oeuvre. Videos include stage adaptations from the BBC, Globe, National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford Festival, and The Hollow Crown NBC television series, exclusive to Bloomsbury. Books published by Methuen, Arden Shakespeare, and other prestigious presses provide context, critical insights, and practical guidance on stagecraft and performance. The user interface is elegant and makes navigating the resource both simple and fun. Drama Online will appeal to large public libraries and academic and secondary school libraries that support theater programs.



BBC Landmark Video Collection is a wonderful source of education and home entertainment. This Alexander Street resource features 105 stunning HD television episodes and documentary films from the BBC, including complete runs of popular and critically acclaimed shows such as Blue Planet I and Blue Planet II, Planet Earth, Frozen Planet, Earthflight, and Big Cats. Viewers can dive into the ocean depths, soar with the birds, and walk with the dinosaurs. Shows such as Civilisations, Icons, and Rituals deliver insights into humanity. Instructors can create clips and embed videos into learning management systems. Educators and students at all levels will appreciate the BBC Landmark Video Collection for its rich imagery and teaching value, while public library patrons and families will find them valuable home entertainment. BBC Landmark Video is a must-have.

JSTOR Sustainability offers the full text of 115 scholarly journals and more than 5,400 research reports from 30-plus policy institutes, with a focus on sustainability and the environment. Coverage includes agriculture, climate change, energy policy, green building, public health, and water management. JSTOR features high-profile journals such as Urban Studies from SAGE Publications and Weather, Climate and Society from the American Meteorological Society, alongside white papers from the Council on Foreign Relations, Centre for European Policy Studies, and other think tanks. Most journals come with a “moving wall” of one to five years between an issue’s publication date and its availability on JSTOR, with new issues added each year. JSTOR Sustainability is essential for academic libraries that support multidisciplinary research and learning with a sustainability component.



DataPlanet is designed for more advanced researchers and analysts who want to manipulate raw data to create custom visualizations. DataPlanet standardizes, structures, and makes available and searchable 13.5 billion datasets from 550 sources on dozens of subjects, including finance and trade, government, labor, population, and public health. As with Statista, below, patrons can deftly export data in the form of spreadsheets and visualizations, including charts and maps. Unlike with Statista, patrons can manipulate data within DataPlanet, choosing different views and data points to include in whatever visualization they choose to export. Power users at state agencies, businesses, colleges, and large public libraries will find DataPlanet invaluable.

Statista is a user-friendly platform featuring extensive statistical coverage for business and consumer trends and topics worldwide. Statista offers more than one million statistics on 80,000 topics and 170 industries. Coverage ranges from the global price index for Big Mac hamburgers to U.S. advertising spending over time. Data are in the form of elegant and easy-to-understand visualizations, which patrons can download, remix, and incorporate into slide decks. Currency and granularity vary, and Statista relies on public sources or partners such as Euromonitor to supply much of its data. Providing both data and visuals and making them so simple to use, Statista is a huge time-saver for undergraduate students, journalists, and public library patrons alike.



O’Reilly features a vast array of business and technology ebooks (35,000-plus titles) and videos (30,000-plus hours), with subscriptions available via ProQuest for public and academic libraries. Included are thousands of proprietary O’Reilly books and hundreds of titles from the “For Dummies” series, as well as entries from 250 other dependable publishers such as Wiley and Apress. Learning pathways of curated multimedia content help patrons develop skills. Totally redesigned in 2018, O’Reilly’s platform is mobile-friendly and easy for patrons to personalize their accounts. Whether patrons want to program with Python or Java, master QuickBooks or Microsoft Excel, design a video game, manage a project, prepare a pitch, or analyze data, they’ll find this an all-in-one solution for building skills in business and tech at any level.


Michael Rodriguez is Collections Strategist at the University of Connecticut, Storrs.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

Regina Cannon


Posted : Dec 03, 2020 05:34



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing