I will be the first to tell you that I think databases sound boring. I’m coming up on my fifteenth year as a librarian, and the word still makes me think of lists of names and numbers, organized so they will be easy to sort through, deadly dull. Maybe that’s your thing, and if so, more power to you, but I start to tune out pretty quickly when I think about that kind of database.
Which is why you can trust me when I say that library databases are exciting! No, really! Don’t glaze over! I have so much to share with you! I’m not talking about the kind of database that records names, addresses, and phone numbers for easy retrieval, or anything to do with computer programming. What I am talking about are the databases of information that JCLS subscribes to so that you, the library user, can access vetted information for research questions. I’m also talking about the tools the library provides, for free, to connect you to online learning.
You can learn a language with a library database. You can learn to fix a car. You can find a great new author to try, video tutorials for craft projects, and an entire catalog on online courses. You can get help with resumes and cover letters, take practice SAT or GRE tests, and search for grants and scholarships. You can research your family history, access newspapers and magazines from long ago, and research everything from health to business to history. And what do you need to access all these wonders? Just a library card.
You can take some time to explore these databases on your own via the library’s database page on our website, but there are a ton and it can be hard to know where to start, so let me direct you to some of my favorites.
Mango Languages can teach you any of more than 70 languages, from Spanish to Swahili, or Punjabi to Potawatomi. It works best if you create an account so the program can track your progress as you work your way through the courses, but you can try it out as a guest first, if you like. It also includes courses for English Language Learners.
The Chilton Automotive Library is of specific interest to mechanics and folks who like to work on their own cars. This database lets you enter the make, model, and year of the vehicle you want to work on, then gives you diagrams and information needed to do the work. You can print the relevant information and take it with you to the garage.
I love telling avid readers about NoveList because it is so much fun to see them light up when they realize this database of books, authors, and genres will open up hosts of new reading possibilities. In NoveList, you can enter the name of a favorite book or author and it will give you a list of similar books it thinks you might enjoy. You can also enter qualities you’re looking for in a book and it will tailor a list to you. If you’re in the mood for a historical fiction novel with a female protagonist originally written in Spanish, you can enter those qualities and create your own list of books. You can look up book reviews, reading levels, and so much more. NoveList is a serious treasure trove for readers.
If you like hands-on creative projects, then you need to know about CreativeBug, a website full of high-quality instructional videos teaching craft projects for all ages and experience levels. Individuals can access these videos through the CreativeBug website for a fee, but if you go through the link on the JCLS Database page you can access all of the content for free with your library card. JCLS subscribes so our community members don’t have to.
Udemy is another online learning site that JCLS library card holders can access for free instead of paying for classes. The online courses it offers include a wide range of computer programming and other tech classes, business-related topics, and personal development. The personal development selections range from meditation and self-actualization sessions to classes in art techniques such as painting and drawing.
Learning Express is a great resource for students and people who are changing careers. It includes study materials and practice tests for not only the SAT, ACT, and GRE, but also certification exams like cosmetology, air traffic control, and nursing. It also has supporting materials for the US Citizenship exam. For people who would like to improve grammar, math, or computer skills, Learning Express has guided coursework to build those skills. And Learning Express Career Center has tools and templates for job applications, resumes, and cover letters.
Ancestry and HeritageQuest are excellent tools for anyone researching their family history. These give you access to Census information, vital records, passenger lists, and other documents that can be used to learn the story of your family. Ancestry can only be accessed from a computer at one of our libraries, but HeritageQuest can be accessed anywhere.
There are so many more! I could keep going, but I’ve run out of space. But now you know that you can grab your library card (you’ll need the barcode number and sometimes your PIN) and go ahead and explore to your heart’s content, learning as you go. If you’d like to dig deeper or get a librarian’s perspective, stop by your library and ask some questions to learn more about how to get the most out of databases. We love questions. We love databases, too.
Now if only we can come up with something better to call them…