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English & Creative Writing Resources: The Library's Databases

Resources in support of studies in English language and literature

What is a Library Database?

A database is a large collection of similar information, that's organized, and retrievable. Think iTunes. What does iTunes do for the music on your computer; it helps you organize your music. It categorizes songs by title, artist, and genre, and it allows you to search through or sort it with that same information. iTunes is a database for your music.

When we talk about library databases, we mean databases that the library subscribes to that contain information that you would otherwise have to pay for or could not easily find on the web. The library's databases consist mainly of:

  • Journal articles (Academic Search Complete, JSTOR, ScienceDirect, CINAHL)
  • eBooks (eBook Central, eBooks on EBSCO, Credo Reference, Cambridge Histories,Gale's Virtual Reference Library)
  • Data and Reports (Statistical Abstracts of the United States,Reference USA, Passport GMID, CountryWatch)
  • Newspapers (LexisNexis and Newspaper Source)
  • Images (ARTstor and Camio)
  • Streaming Videos and Music (Nursing Education in Video, Dance in Video, Naxos Music Library)
  • Books, DVDs, and CDs (the library's catalog)

All in all, the library subscribes to nearly 100 databases!


What's a Library Database?

(Hartness Library, 2012, August 29)

Databases vs. Search Engines

We now know what databases are, but what do we mean by search engines?

Search engines are those tools that you use to search the Web. They include the ones familiar to you:

Whereas search engines search the Web, the library's databases search content to which the library subscribes.

Search Engines

  • Materials found on the Web are not regulated, so records may not be complete
  • Because anyone can author a Web page, the information you find may not be reliable
  • Often times, search engines tailor their results based on your past searches, so often you may only see what the search engine thinks you want to see, perhaps not what you really want to see.


  • Have complete records
  • The materials are carefully selected, so the information you find should be reliable
  • Much of the information you'll find is not accessible by the search engines
  • Databases are created to meet the needs specific to researchers

Search engines are good for finding quick answers and doing background research to build your knowledge on a topic.  You can then use knowledge to create a successful database search and retrieve materials that you can use in your papers.


 Library Databases vs. Search Engines

(WMHS Library, 2010, November 3)

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