The Best Things In Libraries Are (Sometimes) Free

I wait for a number of things in life.  My ever-growing  list now includes two Hobbit movies, a new Richard Armitage interview, a new season of Mad Men to première, any given novel, and the yearly Library Journal  Best Free Reference list.    This list goes beyond Wikipedia to spotlight the best in websites offering accurate, current, and well-written information.  The other criteria as you many have gathered is it’s free for the looking.  (If you are using it in any research remember to cite.)

Since I brought up the ‘W’ word, I might as well state my position on Wikipedia.  It’s handy as a starting point.  When I took my reference course during my Library Tech training, we used a number of sources but we could not use Wikipedia.   Why?  It’s easy to over rely on this tool.  It’s no secret that for some students things start and end with Wikipedia.  Unless someone tells a person to skip to the links at the end, the very stuff used to put together the entries, sometimes the very information within an entry may contain bias or inaccuracies.  While things get updated quickly in real-time, a far cry from the days of buying a new set of encyclopedias,  the cutting and pasting is no different from copying an entry by hand and handing it in.  (Some of us either did it, or can remember such a technique from their own youth.)

Once again I digress…

If access to Library Journal is an issue, I suggest Best Free Reference Web Sites Combined Index, 1999-2011 RUSA Machine-Assisted Reference Section (MARS).  (RUSA stand for reference and User Services Association and it’s part of the American Library Association.)  The list indexes the best free reference websites, with references to their entry in the annual ‘Best Of’ list.  I do have some personal favourites:

Papal Encyclicals Online (

I didn’t need a list to tell me this website is useful, but it helps confirm the feeling.  I used this site to look up key issues and even printed off one encyclical to do an assignment in Catholic Studies a few years ago.  I also like accessing encyclicals in other languages such as Portuguese.

DOAJ: Directory of Open Access Journals (

In a nutshell according to the website Free, full text, quality controlled scientific and scholarly journals, covering all subjects and many languages.  While I like a good, subscribed database as much as the next person,  knowing this service is out there helps level the educational playing field for student with libraries unable to afford some resources.

The Poetry Tool (

My new discovery.  It helps to be a bit of a poetry geek and this site can pass quite a few hours.  Some things may not appear due to copyright despite what the site states, but it’s a treasure trove of poetry, information about poets, and bibliographies to further any research  intellectual pilgrimage

People who work in libraries scavenge for information, sharing bits learned along the way with others, who in turn will pass it along to users.  While the internet sometimes seems like a stream full of deadwood, every once in a while something floats along to spark curiosity.  The journey does not begin and end with one resource, but those resources piece themselves together to arrive at the end result.

2 thoughts on “The Best Things In Libraries Are (Sometimes) Free

    1. Wait do I know you? 😉 Yes, I would love to put this in the newsletter. I know there’s a word limit. Let me know where to chop, or if I need to clean something up. Always good to have a fresh set of eyes on something I wrote.


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