Best of Free Reference - College of Charleston Libraries

April 27, 2009

(From: Best of Reference 2008 in Library Journal)

“In better times the mall was the gathering spot. Now it’s the library.” This quote from the Raleigh News and Observer (1/24/09) is not unique in this respect. Many recent articles and reports tell of people turning to libraries during times of economic hardship. A Harris Poll revealed 75 percent of Americans have library cards, and libraries are reporting an increase in use of services, collections, and the Internet. This year’s list of best free web sites includes resources about the economy as well as sites that allow us to celebrate achievement.

Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project: Lincoln/Net
With full-text access to over 3500 historical documents from Lincoln’s Illinois years (1830–61), including writings and speeches, this collaborative project based at Northern Illinois University is one of the richest online resources about our 16th President. Here you can read or listen to his biography and view vignettes of his life through text, images, and videos.

The Alfred Russel Wallace Page
The reading of Wallace’s paper “On the Tendency of Varieties To Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type,” along with unpublished fragments from the writings of Charles Darwin on July 1, 1858, before the Linnean Society of London gained Wallace lasting fame as the “co-discoverer of the principle of natural selection.” Librarian Charles Smith demonstrates through this site rich with full-text transcriptions of Wallace’s writings that he was so much more.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, “your pathway to career success” assists in exploring careers, writing résumés, interviewing, and locating jobs. Though brought to the web by the State of Minnesota, the site provides links to other states and to nearly 2000 OneStopCareer Centers nationwide.

The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online
This site, directed by John van Wyhe at the University of Cambridge, began in 2002 to assemble all of Darwin’s published and unpublished writings. The result is the largest Darwin resource ever created, with 75,914 pages of searchable text and 184,561 images. With the 150th anniversary of the publication of Origin of Species in 2009, the 70 million users who already visit the site should swell drastically.

Documenting the American South
This collection of primary resources about the culture, literature, and history of the American South was created by and is primarily from the holdings of the University Libraries of the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. Read first-person narratives of women, slaves, and soldiers; discover Southern literary works dating from the Colonial period; and listen to interviews on topics such as civil rights and politics.

Earth Portal
Touted as an “accurate, authoritative, accessible” global resource for science-based information about the environment, Earth Portal is governed by the Environmental Information Coalition and consists of three components: The Encyclopedia of Earth (with over 3500 articles), Earth Forum (commentary and discussions with the public), and Earth News (news stories on environmental issues).

Economic Indicators
Economic News Releases
Ever wonder where the news outlets get the monthly housing starts, or how they learn whether retail trade sales are up or down? These data are released like clockwork by the U.S. Census Bureau. The former site has info on current indicators and historic time series. The latter keeps employment and earnings data and price indexes.

Encyclopedia of Alabama
An excellent example of a well-designed site on the history, culture, and geography of a U.S. state. Developed by the Alabama Humanities Foundation and Auburn University, it includes enhanced multimedia content. Use the site to search for the “Selma to Montgomery March” of 1965, or look for information on To Kill a Mockingbird, set in fictional Maycomb between 1932 and 1935.; Money and Politics: Illuminating the Connection
This nonprofit site explores the connections between campaign donations and Congressional voting. This matching of interest groups with legislators will no doubt be explored in the recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

MRQE: Movie Review Query Engine
MRQE is the ultimate place “where people talk about movies.” Relaunched with expanded content, it’s the largest online database of movie reviews, partnering with leading movie blogs to collect and make searchable their content. From Slumdog Millionaire to Sundance, it’s all here.

Poetry Foundation
The publisher of Poetry magazine has developed a web site that exists to share the discovery and celebration of poetry. The full text of Poetry from 1998 is available, as is a historical index that dates to its 1912 origin. Use the Poetry Tool to search for information about poets or for poems by title, author, first line, or occasion.

“A world of information” is at your fingertips by browsing data series or searching by keyword more than 55 million records from the databases of the UN on employment, education, energy, environment, health, population, refugees, and much more.

From “Best of Reference 2008” in Library Journal.  Authors: Cynthia Etkin is a librarian in Washington, DC, and Brian E. Coutts is a librarian in Bowling Green, KY.


Orignial Heads Up Data from Tom Gilson, Head of Reference, Addlestone Library

Addlestone Library is open to the College of Charleston community and affiliates via card access. Visitors may access Addlestone Library Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm, and must present a government issued ID and sign in upon entry.