As most of you know, Joplin Public Library has a newly revised Web site at www.joplinpubliclibrary.org. When we revised the site, we changed the way we display the online databases. Categories were created to help you find databases by subject. We also made links to parts of databases so you have a better idea what a database holds and to lessen the steps you have to take to find your answer.
Most of the databases the library offers are available from home and they are being constantly updated. Two of the databases reviewed this year have some changes. With a call to the publishers of “Salem Health,” the confusing first login screen has been eliminated. Now when you click on the icon for access, you go directly to the screen to input your library bar-code number. “Oxford Language Dictionaries Online” was introduced at the first of the year with four languages in combination with English: Spanish, French, German and Italian. Chinese and Russian were promised for later in the year and they are now available. Pronunciation software was also added so you can now hear the word pronounced in the language you are searching.
As mentioned earlier, some of the databases cannot be offered to home users and are only available in Joplin Public Library. One of the databases that the library has offered for many years, “American National Biography,” falls into this category.
“American National Biography” is a database offered through Oxford University Press and is the electronic version of a classic reference set, the “Dictionary of American Biography.” The database has more than 18,000 biographies of deceased people who are significant in United States history. It also includes 900 articles from “The Oxford Companion to United States History.”
The people profiled include figures from government, politics, entertainment, science, labor, business and more. Biographies are added and updated semi-annually with articles of recently deceased notables added more often. The latest update includes profiles of David Brinkley (reporter), Bob Hope (entertainer), John Gotti (organized crime), Mary Kay Ash (business), Strom Thurmond (government), Emily Geiger (revolutionary war spy), Philip K. Dick (author), Nathan Jacobson (math), Dale Earnhardt (race car driver) and Gregory Peck (actor).
“American National Biography” offers many different ways to search the database including name, full text, occupation, gender, birth date, birthplace and death date. A simple search can be done from the home page, and other searches are done using the “Custom Search” screen. Users can also do research by using specially selected collections or the research topics.
The specially selected collections are Black History, Women’s History, Asian Pacific American Heritage, American Indian Heritage and Hispanic Heritage. From the “Custom Search” screen, you would enter a search term and choose a category. For instance, if you were searching for black military figures, you could choose Black History and enter “military” as your search term. The results list displays biographies of people who are significant to black history and to the military.
The Oxford editors selected 12 research topics for students and others who are doing research. The topics have articles from “American National Biography” and the “Oxford Companion to United States History.” Researchers can choose from American Literature, Arts in America, Black History, Civil Rights Movement, Civil War, Depression and the New Deal, Frontier and Western Expansion, Gilded Age, Hispanic American Heritage, Native American Heritage, Women’s History and World War II.
The database also includes a “Teacher’s Guide to Using ANB Online.” The teacher’s guide has six lesson plans that highlight the importance of studying biographies as an end in itself and as a starting point for doing further research.
Even though full access to this database requires you to come into the library, you can have free access to some of the content. You can view, from home, the “Biography of the Day” and, by choosing “What’s New,” any of the biographies covered in the current update.
So the next time you are in the library, stop in the reference area and use one the computers reserved for database searching (no library card required) and see what “American National Biography” has to offer you.
Patty Crane is the reference librarian at Joplin Public Library.