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Electronic Databases and Reference Works

butterflyDatabases have become an important informational tool. Even before CDs and the Internet, libraries made use of collections of materials such as Facts on File. Many libraries put lots of time and effort into maintaining vertical files of clipped articles, brochures, and pamphlets. Today these resources can be access much more quickly from anywhere in the world using electronic databases.

Some children and young adults familiar with the Internet may wonder about the value of electronic databases. Many of the databases are difficult to access with poor interfaces and weak search tools. However students are easily convinced when they're able to find ten, high-quality, full-text articles on "steriod use in high school sports" in an electronic journal database compared with 10,000 links to junk using Google.

Electronic Databases Defined

filesAn electronic database is a collection of information organized so that a computer can quickly access requested data. Like a traditional file cabinet, databases are organized by fields, records, and files. A wide range of tools allow users to browse or search the contents of electronic databases.

These electronic databases can be divided into two categories: subscription and open-access.

Subscription databases are paid-resources that are accessed using a username and password. In many states, a collection of databases is purchased through the state and provided to school and public libraries for free. Libraries then supplement this collection with their own subscriptions. Companies like Gale are known for their subscription databases.

Go to Inspire, a service of the Indiana State Library that provides many databases to Indiana libraries. Go to the Inspire Information page for a list of databases. Also, check out a list of other states with similar services.

Open-access databases are those that are available for free without a subscription. Although some require a free login requirement, others are simply open to the public. Over the past several years, many libraries, museums, and agencies have developed wonderful, open-access electronic databases. Butterflies and Moths of North America is a searchable database including occurrence maps, species accounts, checklists, and photographs of thousands butterflies and moths.

Go to the Encyclopedia of Life. Notice the many ways that Web 2.0 features are incorporated into the site. Can you find the following elements?

  1. Go to the Encyclopedia of Life. Notice the Language options at the top of the page allowing you to view the pages in the language of your choice. Scroll down to see the many choices.
  2. Notice the Create an Account option. This tool lets you participate in the online community. It's free, but not required to view pages. Email verification is required.
  3. Go to the Profile page to see how you can create a profile to organize your online activities at the website.
  4. Go to an EOL Taxon Page. Notice the tabs for media, maps, names, community, resources, literature, and updates. For key concepts, go to the Glossary page.
  5. Users can create Collections.
  6. Users can join Communities.
  7. Go to the EOL Field Guides. Notice the links on the interactive map to guides that have been created by individuals around the world. Explore the Butterflies of Tucson, Arizona guide. Notice the map and butterfly information.
  8. Go to the Encyclopedia of Life Podcast page. Notice the link to Subscribe to our podcast. This is the address you use to subscribe using an RSS feed.
  9. Go to the Sea Cucumber podcast for an example of one of the many Google Earth Tours.
  10. Go to the BioBlitz page to find out how you can get involved in a species inventory.
  11. Go to the EOL Blog for the latest information about the website.
  12. In addition to resources on the website itself, you can also extend the experience through social network pages such as TwitterFacebookFlickr, and YouTube.
  13. On many pages you can click the Twitter or Facebook link to LIKE and share your experience.
  14. Go to the survey page to see what they're asking students and teachers.
  15. Go to Whyville and explore a Reef.
  16. Examine the "Ant Observer Cards". Think about what you could make and share at EOL.

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Compare the Encyclopedia of Life experience with another website that contains some of these features. 
What are your favorite websites? What Web 2.0 features do they include?
Can you find links to Google Maps, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, RSS feeds, or others? Can you find the Dynamic Elements, Social Elements, Participatory Elements, and Interactive Elements?
Use some of the websites below to get starting thinking about how these features are woven into websites. 
American Museum of Natural History 
NASA for Educators
National Geographic 
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Delivery Formats

Until the late 1990s, most electronic databases were marketed in the CD format. However, the market has shifted to predominately online delivery. Although the CD and DVD formats are being used for single topics such as subject area encyclopedia, very few companies now promote sales of CD-ROM materials for large, frequently updated databases.

The major advantage of the CD/DVD format is immediate access. In other words, even if the Internet is slow or down, you still have access to locally networked CDs. In addition, if a subscription program ends, users are sometimes allowed to continue using their CDs.

Disadvantages of the CD/DVD format include the small storage space and constant need for updates. When CD-ROM was first announced, people were shocked by the huge storage capacity. Today, these same people are frustrated by how little a CD can store compared to huge hard drives, DVDs, and other storage medium. However the major disadvantage of CDs is the need to continously access updates.

The advantages of online delivery address the problems cited with CDs. With online delivery, you don't need to worry about storage space or updating files. All resources are accessed through a remote server. However if your access to Internet is slow or unreliable, online delivery can be frustrating.

Electronic Database Features

Although most electronic databases are designed for adults, many can be used by children and young adults. In addition, some companies specialize in providing resources for youth.

Use the following characteristics as you explore database options.

Subscription vs Free

While some databases are available on the web for free, others require a subscription.

Some of the free databases are resources that are in the public domain such as classic pieces of literature at Open Library and In some cases, databases are supported by government agencies, museums, grants, or other funding sources. For instance, LibriVox is a popular source for public domain audiobooks.

Go to Open Library,, and LibriVox. You should be familiar with the free options available to both adults and youth.

Sometimes companies provide free databases to draw users into a website that also contains paid services. They're hoping that you'll enjoy the resource so much that you'll buy one too. Some companies provide a portion of their service for free. For example, they might provide abstracts of articles free and full-text for a charge.

Go to Gale. They have free resources on Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Women's History Month, and poetry.

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Go to Library of Congress E-Resources Online Catalog. It has access to many free digital collections. Notice that some are FREE ACCESS while others are ON-SITE ONLY access.

Single Database vs Database Families

Some companies focus on a specific product or products selling subscriptions to individual database titles. Others have a wide range of options and offer groups of databases at discounted rates. Like "buying in bulk" you get a better deal the more you buy. However with limited budgets, consider your needs first.

Go to Encyclopedia of Astronomy and Astrophysics. This is an example of a single product focus.

Go to EBSCO. This company offers a family or group of databases for children and young adults.

Subject Areas

Electronic databases can be found in every subject area. Examine your collection. Where is there a need for additional resources? Consider areas where a database might be particularly useful. Electronic databases are particularly good at providing search tools to easily access specific pieces of information.

What would benefit from information that is constantly updated? For example, health is an area where having up-to-date information is critical.


Some electronic databases focus on a particular format of information such as images, newspapers, magazines, or artwork. Some materials are classified as reference materials while others are fiction or nonfiction.

Electronic encyclopedias are popular electronic databases. World Book Encyclopedia Online is a favorite choice for children and young adults. Encyclopedia Britannica and Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia are also popular.

Go to World Book Online. Explore this popular encyclopedia. What are the advantages and disadvantages of an online encyclopedia?

When considering the individual differences of children and young adults, consider the importance of visuals, audio, animation, and video along with text.

Search Tools

One of the most important features of an electronic database is it's searchability. Most provide multiple search options. They generally use natural language seaching along with the option of an advanced search. Many databases also provide indexes and offer subject headings to help narrow their topic. For example, NoveList from EBSCO allows users to enter a word then select a level, number of pages, lexile rating, and publication date. Once the search is completed, users have choices regarding how to use the results.


After selecting a title, the user is provided with detailed information about the book, related titles, book reviews, and websites. In addition, the user is provided related subject headings that could be used in another search.

Some companies provide sample searches.

Go to Gale's Sample Searches for Thomson Gale Databases. Choose a database and example their sample. Create your own samples.

Navigation goes hand in hand with searchability. Good databases provide tools to help users easily move around the site. Resources for children often include a graphical interface.

Read Asher, Andrew, Duke, Lynda, & Wilson, Suzanne (July 2013). Paths of Discover: Comparing the Search Effectiveness of EBSCO Discovery Service, Summon, Google Scholar, and Conventional Library Resources. College & Research Libraries. Available:
Although this article focuses on college level students, it's useful to see that different databases vary in their search effectiveness. How will you evaluate the search features of databases for youth?

Youth Focus

Increasingly, companies are gearing databases for particular audiences. Some are for emergent readers while others are for advanced placement high school students.

Go to Pebble Go. This database is designed as an "emergent reader research solution".

Some databases are designed specifically for elementary age students. As part of its subscription search, EBSCO Publishing a tool called Searchasaurus that helps guide students through the use of its databases including Primary Search, Middle Search Plus, Nook Collection: Nonfiction, Image Collection, Newspaper Source, and TOPICsearch.

Seachasaurus map

Go to Inspire, choose Databases, and choose Searchasaurus. (You need an INSPIRE password). As you explore, think about how children might navigate this resource.
Go to Searchasaurus UserGuide to get started.
Go to the Media Specialists Section of GaleSchools. Explore the resources available.

Special Features

Recently, electronic databases have begun including special features that are attractive to youth.

Graphics. Seek out databases that incorporate primary source photos, quality color illustrations, infographics, and other meaningful visual representations of information. Increasingly, journal articles are including the images found in the print articles. When looking at database entry, seek out images that convey symbolic and pictorial information effectively. Think about whether youth will be able to interpret the images with and without the accompanying text. In some cases, databases have the option for copying and reusing images. However, in many cases use of the images in restricted.

Audio Downloads. Student Resource Center, Junior Reference Collection, and Science Resource Center are a few of the Gale products that provide audio versions of documents that can be downloaded as MP3 files.

audiofileText-To-Speech Feature. Some Gale products such as Opposing Viewpoints include a text-to-speech feature. An audio player dashboard (shown on right) is provided that allows users to listen to all or part of a document read aloud using a computer-generated voice.

screenMultimedia. Increasingly, multimedia features such as video and animation are incorporated into database entries. Think about how they contribute to understanding. For instance, historical video clips might be incorporated or animations depicting scientific processes.

Apps. Many database apps are now available to provide access to electronic databases on mobile devices. Unfortunately, many of the databases themselves have not been optimized for use with mobile devices.

The image on the left shows how a Gale database on Culinary Arts is cut off on the right side. Users must scroll left and right to see the page.

Go to Gale Apps for examples of the public edition and school edition versions.

Widgets. Database companies are increasingly offering widgets to make access to databases easier. Tools like LibGuides provides help in adding Search Boxes.

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Explore some of the following widget pages. Think about how they might be used to increase access to electronic databases.
EBSCO Search Box
Gale Widgets
ProQuest Widgets


Like any library resource, you'll want to apply your traditional selection criteria when evaluating electronic databases. In addition to basic content quality questions, use the following areas to help you explore special considerations for electronic databases.


The first consideration should be content. For school libraries, it's important to consider whether the resource supports the curriculum and aligns to standards. In addition, it's essential to look at the other materials in the collection and whether there's a need for this material.

The layout of the content is also important. The pages should be visually appealing with easy-to-read fonts, lots of headings and subheadings, and a clean, uncluttered screen.

The content should be accessed a number of different ways. For example, users should be able to print, save, e-mail, and/or take notes within the database.

Reading Levels

Consider the reading level of your students. Will a majority of students benefit from the database? Many materials are designed for middle and high school students rather than children.

Some databases provide the reading level using the lexile score. For example, the EBSCO Primary Search database includes many popular children's magazines. In the sample search and sample article excerpt below (click graphics to enlarge), notice the lexile of 860.

sample search

sample search text

Search tools should be easy to use for young readers. Help should be provided for narrowing topics or focusing attention.

Technical Support

What kind of technical support is provided? What happens when the system is down or access is slow? Is training needed to use the system or will people be able to explore without a lot of help?

The system should load fast and be reliable. This is particularly important for young learners.

Are help tools built into the system and easy to access? Can these help tools easily be searched?


Are passwords and other security keys needed to access the system? Does the license allow patrons to use the materials at home?


Electronic databases can be very expensive. Unlike the one-time cost of a book or other library resources, electronic databases often involved an ongoing subscription cost.

How does the price of this resource compare to other materials available on the same topic? How does this electronic database fit into the overall library budget? Are discounts available? Can a price be negotiated based on the size of your school or a state agreement?

Selection and Purchase

With many choices and limited funding, how do you choose the best materials for your collection?

Start with an exploration of the possibilites. Spend some time viewing the materials found at the websites of popular electronic databases. Compare their services to your needs. Consider the materials you already have your collection and the free materials on the Internet.

Find out what programs exist at the local, state, and national level to support the purchase of the database. In some cases, you may already have access to the resources for free. Or, a discount may be available.

Pick a few electronic databases that you'd like to explore indepth. In most cases, a demonstration version or free trial is available online. Find out what the database actually contains and compare that to the needs of your patrons.

Try the database yourself, but also observe a child or young adult using the resources.

Licensing Issues

There are many licensing issues related to electronic databases. Before you buy, make certain that you're able to use the resource the way you envisioned. In other words,

Through email or phone conversations, ask about whether ful-content access is available over the web. Discuss security issues, passwords, off-site access, and licensing issues related to selected databases.

Database Access

Once you've purchased your databases, you're ready to share them. Access is a major barrier to database use by youth. Two barriers cause problems. First, is knowing what is available. Youth don't realize that hundreds of wonderful resources are at their fingertypes. Consider creating a pathfinder specifically for database access. Or, design a webpage or other entry point. The second barrier involved the passwords and other levels of security required to actually get to the database itself.

Go to Spartan Guide and Spartan Database Links. These high school level pages provide access to subscription databases.

Consider ways children and young adults can access materials online. Be sure to follow your licensing agreement.

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Spend some time exploring the variety of offerings at these these libraries.
Explore the libraries below and compare their offerings.

Public Library - Youth Services

School Libraries

Database Use

Although electronic databases are generally easy to use and have quality help available online, it's important to develop a plan for promoting effective use of electronic databases.

Many of the companies that produce databases provide wonderful materials to help teachers, librarians, and parents use the materials. However it's also important for you to design instructional materials focusing on the specific needs of children and young adults. Ask yourself:

Read one of the following success stories.
EBSCO: Boston College High School
ProQuest Reviews: Research Tool Testimonials
Although there articles are promotional, they provide a nice overview of ways databases can be integrated into digital collections for children and young adults.


Many libraries develop guides for using their databases. These guides may be online or on paper. Some libraries develop bulletin board materials or sample printouts to help patrons.

Go to Online Guides to Databases at Skokie Public Library. Explore one of their guides. Do you think this type of guide would be helpful for students?

Many publishers provide effective tutorials and guided tutorials to supplement their databased.

eye means readGo to Gale. Complete one of their On-Demand Training materials. Be sure to explore their tutorials for topics associated with children and young adults such as Kids InfoBits and Opposing Views.

Explore other tutorials as you wish:


Many of the electronic databases have standards connections. You can also find ways to integrate electronic databases into classroom activities by exploring online lesson plans for ideas.

Explore other student activities and lesson ideas as you wish:

Citing Sources and Avoiding Plagiarism

As children and young adults use database resources, it's important that they accurately cite these materials.

Use the following resources as a starting point:


Many children and young adults go straight to the Internet when searching for information. It's important to promote use of electronic databases.

Increasingly, database providers are developing tools that increase usage such as widgets, database icons, tutorials, and promotional materials.

Explore the Promotional Tools from EBSCO, the Knowledge Base from Gale, Librarian Resource Center from Oxford University Press, and Library Marketing Toolkits from ProQuest.

Database Resources through INSPIRE and IUPUI

Electronic databases are available on CD/DVD and/or online. Most of the producers have websites that contain information and often free-trials of their resources. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be difficult to get young people, teachers, and even librarians excited about using databases.

INSPIRE and IUPUI Databases

Note to IUPUI Graduate Students: Many of the following databases are available through the IUPUI library or the INSPIRE network. For a master list, go to INSPIRE Information. You can access databases through both Oncourse and the IUPUI Library page.

At the IUPUI website, go to the Databases by Title or Databases A to Z page. Access requires IUPUI password. Databases that would be used in by or with children and young adults are listed below ( * useful for elementary/middle school students) :

APAccuNet/AP Multimedia Archive *

American Poetry DatabaseAmerican Poetry Database *

cqCQ Researcher

EBSCOhost Web

ebrarye-brary: download ebrary reader to read the ebooks

thomson galeGale Group Databases (InfoTrac) :

netlibrarynetLibrary: ebooks and references


Electronic Database Websites

Subscription Web sites (30 day trials available)
Explore the database list.

Accessible Archives 
Primary source materials from 18th and 19th century periodicals. (subscription form online, sign up for free trial)

AccessScience from McGraw-Hill 
Online version of the bestselling McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science & Technology with 7,000 articles, 115,000 definitions, and biographies of more than 1,200 key scientists. [Access a free sample, sign up for a 4-week free trial]

AccuNet Multimedia Archive 
An extensive online collection of The Associated Press news photos; over 750,000 news-photographs that go back 150 years to as recent as less-than-a minute ago. [Take a guided tour, access ideas for utilization, register for free trial]

Achievement Technologies, Inc. 
Available via the Internet and on CD-ROM, ATI products are designed to raise student achievement as measured by state and national tests - - offer line of instruction and workforce education programs to support K-12 students and adults.

American National Biography Online 
Information about over 18,000 people from all eras who have influenced and shaped American history and culture. [Personal subscription rate, quotes for institutional subcription, and free trials are available to institutions and organisations.]

CollegeSource Online 
Virtual library with 24,257 college catalogs in full cover-to-cover, original page format representing 2-year, 4-year, graduate, professional and international schools. [Register for free-trial, can purchase online, cd-rom, or microfiche version]

Online international economic, socio-demographic database for cross-national statistical comparisons and GIS mapping. Subscription form online, some parts free . . .

CQ Press Electronic Library from Congressional Quarterly Inc. 
Web products on American government, politics, public policy and affairs, and current and controversial issues of the day. The CQ Electronic Library offers reference products: (1) The CQ Researcher (including an archive back to 1991), (2) CQ Weekly (including an archive back to 1983), (3) CQ's Electronic Encyclopedia of American Government, (4) CQ Public Affairs Collection, (5) CQ Supreme Court Collection, or (6) CQ Insider, [Free trials are only available to libraries and professional organizations, free online demos povided]

Concise, reliable, and up-to-date country reports on 177 cultures of the world. (Free section at website plus online demo)

EBSCO Information Services
EBSCO Information Services comprises EBSCO Subscription Services, a serials subscription agency, and EBSCO Publishing, a full text and bibliographic database division. [Offers some free resources: indexing and abstracts for over 30 of the most popular library trade journals plus 280 of the most popular teacher and administrator trade journals, download one book discussion guide, few selected booktalks, and selected book reivews. Provide subscription based online databases, online request form for free trial access for a librarian or faculty staff ]

Encyclopædia Britannica 
All the content of the 32-volume Encyclopædia Britannica, (2) Britannica Concise Encyclopedia - quick answers to everyday questions, (3) Britannica Student Encyclopedia - ideal for students in grades 5-9, (4)World Atlas - covering the geography, economies, and cultures of more than 215 countries plus multimedia - thousands of images, tables, and audio and video clips, a pop-up dictionary, and more. [ Frequently Asked Questions contains information about an institutional subscription]

Encyclopedia of of Astronomy and Astrophysics

A comphrehensive reference on astronomy and astrophysics. [30 Day Free Institutional Trial]

FirstSearch from OCLC (Online Computer Library Center, Inc.) 
Instant online access to more than 72 databases, including these valuable OCLC databases: OCLC WorldCat, OCLC FirstSearch Electronic Collections Online, OCLC ArticleFirst, OCLC PAIS International, OCLC PapersFirst, OCLC ProceedingsFirst, and OCLC Union Lists of Periodicals. Best of all, local library holdings are displayed up front, so users can easily identify items in their own library's collection.

Gale Group from The Thomson Corporation
Browse the catalog to view an array of reference products. Identify the published format: print, e-book, microfiche, microfilm, cd-rom, dvd, or online. 
Examples include:

Grove Art Online from Oxford University Press 
Access to the entire text of the acclaimed 34-volume Dictionary of Art plus newly-commissioned articles. [Personal subscription rate, quotes for institutional subcription, and free trials are available to institutions and organisations.]

Grove Music Online from Oxford University Press
Including 50,000 articles, sophisticated search and browse capabilities, Sibelius-enabled musical examples, and extensive links to musical sites on the Internet, Grove Music Online is the unsurpassed authority on all aspects of music. [Personal subscription rate, quotes for institutional subcription, and free trials are available to institutions and organisations.]

High Beam (Previsouly e-library)
Users can do business research, use it for homework, get background materials for term papers, find out about both current and historical events, and more, all in one vast database designed for both depth of content and simplicity of interface. [7-day free trial]

Hoover's Online 
A major business database… information on corporations and companies, stocks, Careers, and much more.

HW Wilson
Owned by EBSCO, it offers more than 40 full-text, abstract, and index databases over the Internet, on CD-ROM and magnetic tape. Products include: [Free trials are offered: 30 days online, 60 days cd-rom]

Infobase Learning
This company provides access to Facts On File, World Almanac, Science Online, and Bloom's Literature.

Ingenta Select 
Access to more than 5,000 electronic academic, scholarly, and business publications from over 190 publisher clients.

John Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism 
This Guide consists of 226 alphabetically arranged entries on individual critics and theorists, critical and theoretical schools and movements, and the critical and theoretical innovations of specific countries and historical periods.

A journal archive, JSTOR does not offer trial access to the archive. A demonstration version offers librarians and faculty members the opportunity to preview the functionality and content of the JSTOR Archive.

LearnATest from Learning Express 
Leading source of test preparation materials and interactive practice exams, based on official tests, that will help you improve your scores on academic, civil service, military, and professional licensing and certification exams. We provide immediate scoring, complete answer explanations, and individualized analysis of your score. 

LexisNexis Academic and Library Web Solutions 
Several web-based products aimed primarily at academic libraries, one is focused more on the needs of a high school library. (Take a tour or sign up for a free trial}

Medical Matrix 
This is a subscription medical search engine and directory. The search engine searches the sites on the Medical Matrix directory - the largest peer-reviewed directory to medical sites on the Internet. All sites within Medical Matrix have been pre-selected and rated by a team of physicians and medical librarians. (Subscribe online and sign up for a 24-hr. free pass)

Merriam-Webster Online 
Dictionary & Thesaurus (Free online trial)

National Journal Group 
Leading publisher of magazines, newsletters, books and directories for people who have a professional interest in politics, policy and government.

This electronic database, offered through the Boston Public Library, provides access to over 38,000 electronic books, which users are allowed to “check out” for 24 hours at a time over the internet.

NewsBank, Inc. 
Information from newspapers, newswires, business journals, historical and scholarly documents, periodicals and more is delivered to schools and libraries via the Internet and on CD-ROM. [Online form for requesting more information about a product]

Oxford Reference Online: The Core Collection from Oxford University Press
Winner of Internet Magazine's Site of the Year Award. This online library offers integrated and consistent information across the full subject spectrum - from general reference, language and quotations to science and medicine, from humanities and social sciences to business and professional. It also includes English/French, English/German, English/Spanish, English/Italian bilingual dictionaries. [Personal and concurrent user subscriptions offerred, quotes for unlimited user or institutional subscriptions provided - - special terms for secondary schools, instititutions can request free trial]

Pierian Press 
Database products include: [Procedure provided for requesting a free trial of any database]

ProQuest Information and Learning 
Online information service provides access to thousands of current periodicals and newspapers, many updated daily and containing full-text articles from 1986. [Follow the 'education' link to learn more about ProQuest Education Complete or other products, can request a free trial]

Reference USA from InfoUSA 
From finding old friends and planning vacations to conducting market research and choosing a health care provider, this extensive database offers the information in a fast, convenient format.

Science Direct from Elsevier and 
One of the world's largest providers of scientific, technical and medical (STM) literature. [Contact information provided]

SIRS Publishing, Inc. (Social Issues Resources Series) 
Our mission at SIRS, since 1973 when the company was founded, has been steadfast: to provide information that is reliable and credible in order to encourage dialogue about the major issues of our society, to enable critical thinking and problem solving. Site provides a few free resources online. Most are restricted to subscribers. [Schools, libraries, and other educational institutions may request a no-obligation preview of a SIRS database - online form] Thiscomprehensive database portal is now owned by ProQuest and includes SIRS Researcher®, SIRS Government Reporter®, SIRS Renaissance® and SKS WebSelect™ with available links to SIRS Interactive Citizenship™, SIRS Discoverer® and Discoverer WebFind™.

United Streaming from Discovery Learning 
The service offers teachers access to more than 2,000 complete videos that can be streamed or downloaded on demand to a desktop from a server. (Online demo)

World Book Online 
Every article from the 22-volume print set plus thousands more. With state-of-the art multimedia, editor-reviewed Web sites, and more! [Sample provided, free trial subscription offerred, schools directed to contact sales representative]

Electronic Databases for Children

EBSCO Information Services: Elementary Schools
NoveList K-8, Online Reader and Primary Online Package are three popular options for children. The Package includes Searchasaurus, a graphical search map for children.

Gale Group: Kids InfoBits and Infotrac Kids Edition from The Thomson Corporation
Lots of great resources for kids

Plato Learning 
Family of products (Suite) structured upon a recognized model for student achievement: assessment, alignment, instuction, evaluation, and professional development. [30-day free trial]

ProQuest from ProQuest Information and Learning Company
Includes elibrary, SIRS, ProQuest Historical Newspapers, ProQuest Learning: Literature, and other resources. [Request a free trial

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 
Many of the original educational software companies (Broderbund, Edmark, and The Learning Company) have collapsed into this company.

Online Reference Resources

Increasingly search engines like Google are able to handle both general and specific reference questions. However, you'll also want to provide youth with some quick reference websites.

Go to Multnomah County Library's General Reference page.
Go to RefDesk. This website has been a longtime favorite for reference links.

General Reference Tools

Almanacs, Calendars, Records, and More

An almanac is a reference tool published annually that contains timely information such as calendars, tide tables, weather forecasts, and astronomical information. It may also include other factual information in the form of lists, tables, and general interest information.


Tools for calculation can be very valuable. Remember that the Google search tool now does calculations. Just provide what you want such as 2+2 and it provides the answer.

Specific Calculator Topics



Many tools are available for converting various measures. However, it's just as easy to use Google. For instance, write convert: 240 cups to gallons


A dictionary is a reference tool that contains an alphabetical listing of words with information about each word. This information usually includes meaning, pronunciation, and etymology. Some dictionaries provide language translations or are subject specific.

A digital dictionary contains the same contents as a printed dictionary. In addition, users may be able to hear the word read aloud. Most online dictionaries have a search feature in addition to an alphabetical listing.

Looking for a definition? Open Google and use define: such as define:independence and up come definitions.


A directory is a reference tool that contains an alphabetical listing of information such as names, addresses, or other data.

A digital directory contains the same contents as a printed directory. In addition, most online directories have a search feature in addition to an alphabetical listing.


An encyclopedia is a reference tool that contains articles on a wide range of topics or in a specific subject area. These articles are generally organized in alphabetical order.

A digital encyclopedia contains the same contents as a printed encyclopedia. In addition, users may be able to hear the article read aloud, watch video clips and animations, and view visuals such as photographs, drawings, and diagrams. Most online encyclopedia have a search feature in addition to an alphabetical listing.

Maps and Atlas

A map is a reference tool that is a representation of a location such as a town or country. It may also depict other physical things such as a moon, human face, or genetic makeup. An atlas is a reference tool that contains a collection of maps.

A digital atlas is a reference tool that allows users to search for the name or history of a place and locate maps and directions.

Thesaurus & Specialty Dictionaries

A thesaurus is a reference tool that contains an alphabetical listing of words and their synonyms. Some thesaurus also include related and contrasting words and antonyms.

A digital thesaurus contains the same contents as a printed thesaurus. In addition, users may be able to hear the words read aloud. Some thesaurus also include definitions. A visual thesaurus connects related words using icons and lines.

Translation Tools

Ttranslation tools are reference sources that translate words from one language into another.

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Sometimes reference tools are a better use of time than searching for websites on a particular topic. Can online references really help students answer questions? Or, will they just make students more frustrated? Think like a student and complete the following activity: 
Create a list of three questions that might be asked at your grade level. Choose three different topics.
Use websites to answer the questions, then address the following questions:
Were you able to answer the questions? 
What three words best describe your experience using online resources to answer specific questions?
What strategies could be used to make the experience more meaningful or successful?
What types of topics and questions would work best using these tools?

Daily Resources

As you think about technology integration, start small. Then as you feel more comfortable, add technology resources and tools. Always remember to focus on the learning outcome rather than the technology itself.
Choose something to do every day. There are many daily resources you can access. Also, search for daily apps.

Daily Thinking Games

Picture of the Day

Word of the Day

Math Problem of the...

Quote of the...

Poem of the...

This Day in

Other Topics

News Resources

You're probably familar with current events and news websites for adults, however let's explore some resources specifically for youth.

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