Getting Access: Alumni Libraries

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

Alumni Libraries

Many universities and colleges extend library privileges to alumni. Benefits vary, but can include book borrowing privileges and access to online resources.

The catch: You must be a paying member of the school’s alumni association.


PSUThe Good

The Penn State Alumni Association excels in their library access for alumni. They offer Association members book borrowing privileges and remote access to digital databases.

The databases in the Penn State Alumni Library include:

I am grateful for the access Penn State provides, but it is not a comprehensive solution. Not all journals allow universities to extend their full-institutional subscriptions to persons who are not employed by or enrolled in the university. I spend $15/year for additional JStor access through the William and Mary Quarterly because it is the only way I can download an article they have published within the last 5 years. (I keep only the most current journal because bookshelf space is scarce in my house.)


UCDThe Not So Good

Not all alumni libraries are equal. I also belong to the Cal Aggie Alumni Association, the organization for University of California, Davis alumni. Like Penn State, the University of California offers members of its alumni associations access to an “Alumni Library.” However, UC limits its library privileges to books; paid members of its alumni associations can borrow up to 5 books from any UC Library. (This benefit does not include ILL privileges.)

The University of California may tout itself as one system, but it does not have one alumni organization. Each campus has its own group and some groups add features to its UC Alumni Library. For example, the UCLA Alumni Association offers its members access to the ProQuest Research Library.


The Bottom Line

You should see if your college alumni association offers library access. If they do, and you're a member, then you may be missing out on a great benefit you already paid for. If you are not an alumni association member, perhaps the database access provided by your alumni library is worth rekindling your school spirit for.


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.



Getting Access: Newspapers from Early America

LaptopWelcome to Getting Access, a series devoted to helping you obtain the digital records you need. Companies like Newsbank/Readex are on a mission to digitize early American records. Their Early American Newspapers and Early American Imprints databases offer a comprehensive collection of digitized early American tracts and newspapers.

It used to be that to access these databases you had be affiliated with (or live near) one of the wealthy research institutions that can afford to pay their enormous subscription fees. However, Newsbank offers an affordable backdoor to a lot of the content stored in its expensive Readex-branded databases.



Genealogy-BankIn October 2006, Newsbank launched GenealogyBank, a direct-to-consumer resource that "provide[s] researchers with unprecedented Web-based access to millions of the United States' core genealogical records from the 17th to the 21st centuries."

Geared for genealogical queries and non-professional researchers, GenealogyBank does not offer the advanced search options of its Readex counterparts, Early American Newspapers or America's Historical Newspapers.

The search interface gives preference to names of people rather than dates. Users cannot access the issue lists for a given newspaper title. To pull up a page view of an entire issue, users must first click on an article and then click on the "Page [1]" link located on the left-hand side above the article title. Users cannot navigate from full-page view to full-page view.

Still, with a little persistence users should be able to find the information they need from the comfort of their homes.


 The Bottom Line

GenealogyBank may be a tad cumbersome to use, but at $69.95/year it offers underprivileged historians affordable access to newspapers and imprints that they could only access in physical archives or by visiting a library that has a subscription to the Readex-branded databases.


What Do You Think?

Have you found any helpful ways for accessing early American newspapers online? If so please leave a comment or send me a tweet.