American History, 1493–1945.
2015. Adam Matthew [ americanhistory.amdigital.co.uk].
This database consists of an expansive array
of unique primary source material presented
under the watchful eye of an editorial board
that includes many preeminent historians.
The material, drawn from the Gilder Leh-rman Institute of American History, in New
York, centers around tens of thousands of
documents that are well arranged and tagged
with enough descriptive metadata to ensure
a relatively effortless search experience. There
are two modules within this database:
Settlement, Commerce, Revolution, and Reform:
1493–1859, and Civil War, Reconstruction,
and the Modern Era: 1860–1945. Module
1 covers topics including colonial America,
the Revolutionary War, Federalism and
American expansion, Native Americans, and
slavery. Although module 2 has an emphasis
on the Civil War, the coverage spans the period from the election of Lincoln, in 1860, to
the end of the Second World War, including
the Industrial Revolution, the Gilded Age,
and the expansion of the American West.
Searches can be narrowed to documents,
visual resources, thematic guides, video lectures, essays, and much more. There is also
an interactive chronology. The documents
can be searched by date, theme, and document type and from subcollections. The
advanced-search features allow users to drill
down to specific topics by using multiple levels and various filters.
The “History of America in 100 Documents”
section is divided into logical categories,
including “African-American History,” “
Economics and Business,” and “Women’s History,”
and includes contextual information making
them very handy for quick use in a classroom
setting. The “Visual Resources” section contains stunningly digitized drawings, objects,
paintings, and photographs that also come
equipped with related descriptive metadata.
With the “My Lightbox” feature, researchers
can select images to be added to their own cre-
ative slideshow presentations. Users can also
build their own archives of documents, visual
resources, and contextual essays, which will be
a great assistance in research projects. This re-
source is clearly out in front of the competition
and is highly recommended for high-school,
academic, and public libraries. —Brian Odom
YA/C: There is a wealth of material
on American history available in this
database, which would be suitable for
advanced high-school students. RV.
Gale Virtual Reference Library.
2015. Gale [ solutions.cengage.com/gvrl-solutions/overview].
The Gale Virtual Reference Library
(GVRL) offers libraries more than 17,000
titles to choose from published by Gale and
more than 120 partner publishers. Content
is available at all reading levels from pre-K
through advanced academic study and supports research across core academic subjects
as well as general reference and popular nonfiction topics like health, cooking, travel,
self-help and how-to. It contains a wide range
of content and is very easy to use. However,
the success of any product such as GVRL depends on two primary factors—the software
used for the search interface, and the reference works that make up the content.
The GVRL interface is straightforward and
intuitive. Users can browse by subject or title
and can search within categories, individual
works, or the entire collection. When users select a work, they access the full table
of contents, with links to information about
the work, its index, and the illustrations. Users can either browse through the contents
or search the text. When the desired text is
found, users have the option to read it on
the screen, print or download it, insert highlighting and notes, translate it into any of 34
languages, or use a screen reader to hear it
out loud. Citation assistance is provided in
APA and MLA styles.
The interface succeeds in being simple,
clean, and easy to use, but the content of the
database can be a little more problematic.
Fortunately, Gale has some excellent reference
works included in GVRL. Since Gale has
been a reference publisher for a long time, it
has the rights to a large catalog of resources.
Award-winning titles such as the Macmil-
lan Encyclopedia of Religion, Encyclopedia of
Clothing and Fashion, Encyclopedia of World
Biography, American Men & Women of Sci-
ence, Contemporary Authors, Twayne’s Author
series, and Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia
are all included in GVRL. Landmark sourc-
es such as these emphasize Gale’s scope and
depth. Other, highly specialized works are
also included, but library customers can build
their own collections by purchasing individ-
ual titles or sets, thus making it possible to
exclude highly specialized titles if appropriate.
Still, the product would be even more valu-
able if a general-knowledge encyclopedia were
added to the platform.
To help lead users to GVRL materials,
Gale provides MARC records for all titles in
any library’s GVRL collection. Though each
library’s collection will vary, users searching
the library catalog will be seamlessly linked
directly to that title within the GVRL interface. GVRL has the potential to become
a first stop when searching for reference information. The interface is nicely accessible,
and the look and feel of the product is clean
and intuitive. —David Tyckoson
Merck Manual Online.
2015. [ merckmanuals.com].
The Merck Manual has been a standard
medical reference source for more than 100
years. The first home edition was published
in 1997 and translated into 12 languages,
and print updates of “the red book” can be
found in ready-reference collections in most
libraries. Until now, that is. In June 2015,
Merck made the decision to move from the
print edition to a free digital resource.
The constantly updated site offers two options on its landing page: one with advanced
content designed for health-care professionals, and one with the same subject matter,
translated into easy-to-understand language
for patients and consumers. Librarians should
steer most patrons to the consumer site,
where users will find basic and detailed information on health concerns, a drug-interaction
checker, a pill identifier, and a guide to pronunciation of medical terms. The narrative
information is enhanced by infographics,
animations, video clips, health trackers, and
more. A large search box is the first thing users
will see, with a selection of “Featured Articles
and Topics” for browsing below.
The website does not make users register or
use any personal information, and there is no
advertising or commercial messaging. Content
can be accessed on mobile devices, and there
are options to make e-mailing, printing, saving, and sharing across social networks simple.
In the tradition of its print predecessor, Merck
Manual Online continues to provide the most
current, detailed medical information in a us-er-friendly format. Most librarians will want to
become familiar with this new online version
of the venerable resource and do all they can
to promote it to their patrons. —Rebecca Vnuk