The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

September 26, 2008

Review: ‘Salem History’ offers online database of historical documents

A couple of months ago I introduced you to a great bargain, “Salem Health.” We bought the book set and received access to the online database for free. Well, Salem Press has done it again. We purchased the four-volume set “Milestone Documents in American History” and now have access to the electronic version, “Salem History,” from both home and in the library.

“Salem History” contains 134 documents that shaped American history. Each of the primary source documents are full text with expert analysis and commentary for each document. The database provides a variety of ways to search. You can search the full text, title, abstract or keywords and results will vary depending on how you search.

A full text search on the words “declaration of independence” results in not only the Declaration of Independence but also the Emancipation Proclamation, the Dred Scott v. Sandford decision, Patrick Henry’s “Liberty or Death” speech and many others. By contrast, the same search in the title field brings up just the Declaration of Independence and its document analysis. If you don’t find what you want, the advanced search option helps you to structure your search for better results.

If you would rather search by a subject or category, choose the “Browse” tab. There are 25 categories to choose from and each category has subcategories to further narrow your search. Choosing the category “Social Issues, Reform” lets you choose “Elections, Voting” and you get the Fifteenth Amendment, the Nineteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act.

When you open a document, such as the “Nineteenth Amendment Document Analysis,” you can view the title page of the document provided by the National Archives and Records Administration. The analysis gives a brief overview of women’s suffrage and the passage of the amendment, the context of the amendment, a biography of the author, an explanation and analysis of the document, the audience for the document and its impact. A timeline, questions for further study, related documents (with hot links for Web sites), a bibliography and related Web sites are also included.

The “People” tab lets you choose documents by the author. You can browse through the alphabet or type in the person’s name. If the person you are looking for is the author of more than one document, you will find a plus sign by the name. When you click on the name, a box appears so you can see the documents available.

You also have the option to register under the “Profile” tab. Registering allows you to save citations, articles, and searches. You can also e-mail citations to yourself, even if you are not registered.

This is a great database for research and very easy to use. Try it the next time you are in the library or visit the library’s Web site ( and find it under “Reference Online Resources.”


Another new addition to the library database collection is “GreenFILE.” Covering all aspects of human impact to the environment, this database consists of almost 400,000 articles from scholarly journals, magazines, books, reports and government documents.

Ebscohost is providing “GreenFILE” to us free and you will find it on the same selection page as our other magazine indexes. It uses the same search screens and has all of the updated features that are common to those familiar with the Ebsco indexes.

A search on the terms “global” and “warming” results in lots of articles (5,700-plus) with the newest displayed at the top. On the right side of the screen, you will see that the citations range in date from 1978 to 2009. The breakdown of sources and the subject headings are located to the left of the results. You can click on any of the sources or subjects to lessen the results or narrow the search.

You also have the option to retrieve full text results only. “GreenFILE” is mainly an index with abstracts database and not many of the resources are full text. For this search, clicking on “Full Text” and “Update Results” reduces the number of hits to 1,589. This feature is especially nice if you need the whole article right now.

Every article has an abstract (click on the magnifying glass by the title) and any article you need that is not available at the library can usually be borrowed from another library through interlibrary loan.

This database is great for research and available in the library or you can log in from home with your library card.

Patty Crane is the reference librarian at Joplin Public Library.