New Databases Expand Libraries’ Digital Offerings

The African American Communities database, recently acquired by OHIO Libraries, contains pamphlets, newspapers, correspondence and photos from communities in several cities such as Atlanta and Chicago. This photo shows a group of jeering teenagers in New Orleans protesting the integration of schools in 1960. (Photo from African American Communities database)

Jeff Shane uses a baseball analogy when he explains why OHIO Libraries is always seeking to expand its resources.

“Because the Cubs won the World Series this year, next year they’re going to spend even more money on players because they’ve won it once,” said Shane, the subject librarian for history, along with other areas. “A win put them at the top, and they want to stay there.”

The American Politics and Society from Kennedy to Watergate database, recently acquired by OHIO Libraries, has primary sources from the late 1940s through the 1960s and covers the administrations of Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon. These notes from Kennedy are from a meeting about the Cuban missile crisis. (Photo from American Politics and Society from Kennedy to Watergate database)

OHIO Libraries is one of the top 100+ research libraries in the nation, according to the Association of Research Libraries, and students and faculty require high-quality resources for their research and teaching. They turn to the Libraries for the rare and newly published books, manuscript collections, databases and other electronic materials that are indispensable to higher education. This is evident in these highlighted new databases that can be accessed through the Libraries’ website.

Janet Hulm, assistant dean for collections and digital initiatives, said that while electronic databases can be expensive, they are essential additions to the Libraries’ collections.

“When we have opportunities to purchase large databases, I work with subject librarians to select them,” she said.

One of these new databases is African American Communities, which contains primary resources focusing on African American communities in Atlanta, Brooklyn, Chicago, New York, St. Louis and cities in North Carolina, as well as background information on how these communities have dealt with desegregation, urban renewal, civil rights protests and discrimination. Materials include pamphlets, newspapers and periodicals, and correspondence. African American Communities includes sources from archives at organizations such as the Atlanta History Center and Washington University in St. Louis.

lorraine Wochna, subject librarian for African American Studies, said the database is easy to navigate and is not overwhelming despite its variety of content.

“It’s really good for undergraduate research because it really lays it out [nicely], whereas other databases we buy, especially with primary resources, are a lot more difficult to deal with,” she said.

Wochna has been working with Bayyinah Jeffries, assistant professor of African American Studies, and Jeffries’ History of Injustice in the United States course, which has been using the database.

Another of the Libraries’ new acquisitions, the Gerritsen Collection of Aletta H. Jacobs, which the Libraries previously held on microfilm, is now available online. The database contains primary documents in women’s history, such as journals, letters and women’s suffrage pamphlets. The Gerritsen Collection is international in scope and includes materials in several languages from the United States and Europe, according to the database’s official description. Both periodicals and monographs are included in the collection that covers the women’s rights movement in several countries.

Sherri Saines, subject librarian for Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, said the Gerritsen Collection is an example of the Libraries’ unique resources that “you can’t get on Google.”

The Gerritsen Collection of Aletta H. Jacobs contains primary documents in women’s history, such as journals, letters and women’s suffrage pamphlets. This page from an 1893 edition of Women’s Suffrage Calendar in England reprinted a parliamentary bill advocating for women’s suffrage. (From Gerritsen Collection database)

“Librarians have looked at this stuff. It’s not like Google, where you’re just searching word letter strings. In a database, librarians have looked at that thing and said this is what this is,” Saines said. “They’ve given it the correct identification and they’ve given it subject headings that really are meaningful because they are human-attached headings, and that’s what we’re paying for in databases. It’s that indexing that we care about.”

Databases allow researchers to find information and sources, especially primary sources, that they could not find or know about otherwise, Saines said.

“It’s scattered in collections all over the nation and internationally, and there is no way that you could know that [for example] the University of Illinois holds the diary of Person X who is your research subject unless someone lets you know,” she said.

The recently acquired GeoScience World Ebook Collection includes ebooks on the geological sciences, including this field guide on the 1906 San Francisco earthquakes. (Book cover of “1906 San Francisco Earthquake Centennial Field Guides” edited by Carol S. Prentice, Judith G. Scotchmoor, Eldridge M. Moores, and Jon P. Kiland)
The recently acquired GeoScience World Ebook Collection includes ebooks on the geological sciences, including this field guide on the 1906 San Francisco earthquakes. (Book cover of “1906 San Francisco Earthquake Centennial Field Guides” edited by Carol S. Prentice, Judith G. Scotchmoor, Eldridge M. Moores, and Jon P. Kiland)

Like the Gerritsen Collection, American Politics and Society from Kennedy to Watergate, which is included in the ProQuest History Vault, was previously available on microform and is now online. It includes primary sources from 1960 through 1975 and covers the administrations of Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon. Users can read documents from a variety of government agencies and other organizations, such as the Democratic National Committee and the Environmental Protection Agency, according to the description of the database.

Shane said that while some of these materials may not be used often, the value of having access to such resources is immeasurable.

“No one else in the country, or in some cases, no one else in the world, has some of the stuff we have. To me, that’s what makes [our] Library special,” he said.

The GeoScience World Ebook Collection includes ebooks on a variety of topics in the geological sciences, many of which are available through professional societies, such as the Geological Society of America. Users can search for information about a specific geographic area and can find research dating back to the 1920s.

Michael Farmer, subject librarian for Geological Sciences, said the collection will consolidate the research process by making electronic geological science books more readily available.

“It should help speed up the research process, and it will allow these students access to materials that otherwise would have been much more difficult for them to obtain,” he said.

OHIO Libraries is always in search of new resources that help facilitate research and teaching, which ultimately fuels new levels of achievement by our OHIO community.