Digital Databases

Getting Access: Big City Public Libraries

library-cloudWelcome to Getting Access, a series devoted to helping you obtain the digital records you need.

Big City Public Libraries

Many big city public libraries have subscriptions to some of the same, expensive research databases as big university libraries.

The Boston Public Library has a fantastic collection of databases. They subscribe to America’s Historical Newspapers (1690-1922), 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers, Early American Imprints Series I (Evans) & II (Shaw-Shoemaker), J-Stor, and the Oxford English Dictionary, just to name a few.

As a library cardholder I can access these collections from my home computer. Chances are you can too.

The Boston Public Library is not the only public library to subscribe to these invaluable databases. A quick search revealed that the New York Public Library and the Los Angeles Public Library also subscribe to these and other databases.


BostonAccess Beyond Big Cities

The best part about big city public libraries: You don’t have to live in a big city to make use of their electronic resources. The Boston Public Library, the New York Public Library, and the Los Angeles Public Library will issue a library card to anyone who resides in their respective states.

This means that someone in Albany, New York can access the NYPL databases 150 miles away from New York City and that a resident of Lee, Massachusetts can access the databases of the BPL without having to drive two hours on I-90 East.


Variations in Access

My quick search of major metropolitan areas revealed that not all big city public libraries subscribe to the same databases. The Houston Public Library does not have subscriptions to the above named databases, nor does the St. Louis Public Library.

Additionally, not all libraries allow remote access to the same databases. For example, the Boston Public Library allows library cardholders to access the America's Historical Newspapers database remotely, the New York Public Library does not.

Regardless, it is worth a quick search to find out if the major metropolitan library in your state offers access to databases because chances are that as a state resident you are eligible for a library card.


What Do You Think?

Have you found any helpful ways for remotely accessing digital records or academic journal articles? If so please leave a comment or send me a tweet.