Shelf Awareness with Julia Engel logo

Now that school is back in full swing, it’s time to become acquainted with all of the great educational resources available through the library. It is also a good time for those of us who are lifelong learners to get to know these tools as we head into the winter months that are great for hunkering down and learning a new skill or hobby. We have a wide array of learning materials and services, other than the print and physical materials, that are useful not only to students but for everyone.    

In my work at the library, I find that many patrons are not yet familiar with our electronic resources. This collection encompasses a few different things. For starters, there are the downloadable e-books and audiobooks hosted on the Overdrive/Libby and CloudLibrary apps. These are free books you can read or listen to through a device such as a smartphone or tablet. They can also be accessed through a web browser from a computer. To learn more about these you can check out the column I wrote a few months ago, or visit the Downloadables page on the library’s website for more information.  

After the pandemic began, many folks learned more about the e-books and e-audiobooks collection, but another piece of our e-resource collection are all of the fantastic databases you can use with your library card. These are available through our website on the E-Resources Collection page. Some may be familiar such as and the New York Times. However, others you may not have heard of are Gale Databases, Creativebug, Kanopy, LinkedIn Learning, Mango Languages and BookFlix for kids, along with many others.

When choosing what to write about this month, I hesitated if I wanted to write about this topic. Databases sounded like a lot less exciting than some other subjects that I have written about lately such as KidLit, novellas and cookbooks, but I thought since it is an underutilized collection it may be good to highlight it. At first it sounded a bit dreary, but as I dug in, I discovered the wide variety of databases and electronic resources we offer are much more than a dull collection of dry how-to manuals. These are dynamic, vibrant and exciting collections filled with materials that can enrich and stimulate your life. Among the many uses for these resources, you can use them to find historical facts, make a fall craft project and learn another language! 

You may be wondering, what exactly is a database? A database is an organized collection of structured information, or data, typically stored electronically in a computer system. The databases offered by the library offer articles and information about a wide variety of topics. Some are for learning about more standard academic disciplines and some can be just plain fun.  

To start with, there are the scholarly resources. The main resource we subscribe to for peer-reviewed journal articles is the Gale Databases. These can be used to locate peer-reviewed articles written by leading academics around the world on topics such as global economics, environmental studies, agriculture, U.S. history, fine arts, psychology and many more.  

Why use databases to do your research instead of just an internet search? It may seem at first glance that the over-abundance of data and information available at our fingertips 24/7 via the web would be a sufficient tool for doing research. However, the accuracy, credibility and search ability of the information on the internet is sometimes sacrificed for quantity and ease of access. An internet search may render a large amount of readily accessible content, but databases offer high quality, current, and most of all, accurate information. 

Anyone can create a web page and post anything they want on the internet, which does provide some benefits for information sharing, but there is no one checking to make sure that all of the information on the web is accurate. It can become a minefield of contradictions, misinformation and skewed or misinterpreted statistics. Databases offer information that is fact-checked for credibility. Many of the articles you can find in these databases are peer-reviewed articles, and the content is evaluated for accuracy by authorities in the field, is more stable than information on the internet, and is easier to narrow down in a search to help you find what is the most relevant to your needs.  

These databases are organized by information professionals for maximum search ability, so you won’t have to wade through pages of imprecise or ill-fitting results and sponsored ads before finding the most relevant information for your needs. You will spend less time searching and be able to access better content than in web searches.  

The difficulty for most people is that these databases usually cost money to subscribe to so are not easily accessible to the public. The good news is that local libraries like ours subscribe to databases and make them accessible to users. You can utilize these resources at no cost with your library card.  

Internet searches can have certain benefits, but they may not be a good resource to rely on fully when forming opinions on a topic. Beginning your research on the internet can sometimes be a good starting point to get some quick information, but is usually not the place to end. To dig further, search our catalog for print and e-books/e-audiobooks then continue by checking out some databases. I also have to advise that when making important medical, legal or financial decisions, it is always best to consult a doctor, lawyer or financial adviser.

In addition to databases with academic journal articles, we also provide several that are fun as well as informative. We’ve got so many great ones to choose from: everything from arts and crafts, films, languages and how to find good books. I mentioned a few earlier in this column but wanted to give you a little more information about all of the exciting options we offer, so in lieu of my usual book list at the end of this column, I have highlighted some of our e-resources that I think you may find interesting. For the full list of all of our e-resource offerings, please visit this page.   

As always, if you have any questions you can reach the Philomath library by calling 541-929-3016, or feel free to contact our systemwide information services at  

Happy researching!

(Julia Engel is a reference librarian at Philomath Community Library. She can be reached via email at or by phone at 541-929-3016.)

Ancestry Library Edition — One of our most popular resources, hosting genealogical and historical resources including census records. Our Ancestry subscription is temporarily accessible from home. When logged in to your account, click on the link towards the top of your library account summary page. Log in here.  

Auto Repair Source provides car repair information (procedures, wiring diagrams, etc.) for cars 1974 and newer.  

BookFlix hosts video storybooks paired with nonfiction e-books for kids preschool-third grade.

Consumer Reports is a trusted source for information and advice on consumer products, personal finance, health and more.  

Creativebug offers online video arts and crafts workshops and techniques. Access hundreds of videos, printable instruction and patterns for arts and crafting. Includes video instruction for kids as well.  

Driving Permit Practice Tests offers Oregon car, motorcycle, and commercial driver license practice tests.   

Fastcase includes caselaw, statutes and session law, court rules, regulations, and attorney general opinions.  

Gale Databases is a great resource for finding scholarly, peer reviewed journal articles arranged by topic.  Also try out Gale Power Search to search across many topics, to search only encyclopedias and other reference books, use Gale eBooks.  

Gale Health and Wellness offers up-to-date medical reference materials and journal articles. 

Kanopy provides films and thoughtful entertainment for adults and kids. 

LinkedIn Learning (formerly hosts videos instruction for business, creative, and technology skills in seven languages. Also includes transcripts and practice tools.  

Mango Languages provides tools to help you learn over 70 languages and dialects with self-paced courses. An Android app and iOS app are also available. First-time users must click Use Mango As A Guest or Sign Up. 

New York Times gives you access to the New York Times website and app in renewable 24-hour blocks.

NOLO Guides offers legal guidebooks for individuals and businesses, as well as a limited selection of Oregon legal forms. 

Reference Solutions (formerly Reference USA) contains business and residential phone directories as well as background information on companies.  

ScienceFlix gives you tablet-friendly access to hands-on science projects, videos, articles, lesson plans and quizzes designed for kids ages 10-15, as well as articles in English and Spanish.  

Value Line offers investment information as well as ratings and reports for stocks, mutual funds and ETFs.  World Book is a children’s encyclopedia with video and interactive content.