You probably doze off when you hear the word databases mentioned, yes? It’s okay, I get it.They sound boring, utilitarian, and maybe a bit confusing. But really, they’re amazing unicorns of usefulness and fun once you uncover them. And the library has so many to explore!
This month, you’ll get a taste of what Anchorage Public Library offers; I’ll cover more at another time. Just know that you can access any of these—for free–when you visit an APL branch, and most can be accessed from home with your APL library card.
Starting at the APL webpage (http://www.anchoragelibrary.org), choose the Resources tab at the top right, then click on Databases A To Z. From here, you can either scroll through the list or take an alphabetical shortcut if you know the name of the database you need.
Looking for past articles from local newspapers? Try America’s News. This resource has newspaper backfiles from around the US, though dates of coverage vary by title. Alaskan newspapers include the Anchorage Daily News/Anchorage Dispatch News, Anchorage Press, Arctic Warrior (JBER), Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Juneau Empire, Kodiak Daily Mirror, Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, and Peninsula Clarion (Kenai).
Auto Repair Reference Center is exactly what you would expect from the name. Here you’ll find information on recalls, repairs, electrical wiring diagrams, and diagnostics for most major automobile manufacturers (foreign and domestic) covering more than 37,000 vehicles from 1954 to present.
Alaska Driving Manuals and Practice Tests: The tests have different levels: Easy, Hard, and Expert. The manuals are available for car, motorcycle, and commercial (CDL) licenses. This sure beats making a trip to the DMV!
We have two databases to choose from to learn a foreign language: Duolingo (which has a free, interactive app) and Mango. Duolingo has over 30 languages to choose from, and you can set daily goals for how much time you want to spend learning. For Game of Thrones fans, High Valyrian is one of the choices. Mango has 72 languages, including American Sign Language, four dialects of Arabic, both Biblical and modern Hebrew, and Shakespearean English. You can even learn to speak Pirate for International Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19 (yes, it’s a real thing)!
Live Homework Help, live tutoring via Tutor.com, is an amazing resource and Ruler of All Database Unicorns. It’s funded by the Alaska State Legislature through the Alaska State Library, Archives and Museums and made accessible statewide. It’s available from 12pm (noon) until 2am every day. Students log in to work one-on-one with trained instructors on subjects like math, science, English, social studies, and many others. Tutoring covers grades K-12 plus introductory college courses. The tutor works with the student via voice-chat, messaging, whiteboard, or a combination of those, and a transcript of the session is provided for the student to refer to afterward. Also, there is test preparation help (SAT, ACT, AP), ESL/ELL assistance, and aid with high school equivalence and citizenship exams. When my kids had math homework that was beyond my ability to tackle, Live Homework Help came to the rescue.
This is just a sampling of what the library has to offer in terms of databases, and I’ll cover more of these gems at a later date.
Feel free to explore them on your own at home with your library card, or come in to any APL location and staff will gladly show you around.
Nancy Clark is a lifelong Alaskan raising her family in her hometown. She has more than 25 years’ experience as a librarian, and currently serves as manager of the Chugiak-Eagle River Branch of Anchorage Public Library. In her spare time, she reads, cooks, gardens, and writes fiction. To reach Nancy, email: firstname.lastname@example.org