My father-in-law is a wonderful man who is good at many things. He’s smart, funny, an excellent woodworker, a doting grandfather, a voter, a board member: you know, basic good-human stuff. He is also very frugal, which I admire, so imagine his surprise when I recently told him that he could access his beloved Consumer Reports, (that he pays top dollar for), online through the Timberland Regional Library, for free! In fact, there is so much available through the Reference Databases for library-card holders, that I haven’t been able to stop looking through them.
It’s a rabbit-hole, y’all. You’ve been warned.
I’ve been hopping through the database almost daily now. Initially it started as a reconnaissance mission to gather info to share with you, but now I’m hooked and excited to share my week of database wanderings. In a world of self-publishing where anyone can post “news,” authentic or not, the database is a refreshingly safe, online space where library patrons can unlock a world of information from reliable and quality sources.
But first, let’s talk about how I got there:
Visit the Timberland Regional Library’s home page, and in the top navigation bar, select “Learn.” A drop-down menu will appear and select the first option, “Reference Databases.” The main database page appears with different-colored bubbles denoting different fields of interest. Deciding which one to select first was a major problem for me…so many choices!
First, I wandered to the tab labeled “Jobs, Education, & Practice Tests”. My niece is a senior in high school this year, and I’m concerned about her future career plans, or lack thereof. Right away I found two great options for her to learn more about potential careers through Career Cruising and Career Preparation. In Career Cruising, you can see a list of schools in every state, (trades included), and can even compare three at a time!
I decided to use Tuesday to its full potential and learn how to be a better grown up. I need a larger car for my children, so I took a nod from my father-in-law and searched through the Consumer Reports looking at third row SUVs. I also really need to get serious about investment and retirement planning and was excited to find the Morningstar Investment Research Center, but I didn’t know what to do with it. Fortunately, the Niche Academy Tutorial was there to help.
My husband and I also do not have a will prepared yet, (I know, I know), so under Business, Legal & Grant Seekers I found Gale Legal Forms where you can access legal forms by state, and even submit a handful of them online. I found a form to complete a Last Will and Testament, but there was also so much more: name change forms, landlord tenant, Power of Attorney, real estate forms, divorce paperwork, and on and on. If you want to do some serious adulting, this is the place for you.
At the bottom of the same drop-down menu you used to access the Reference Databases, you will find an option called E-Tutorials. These short videos are provided by the Library through Niche Academy and detail how to use the websites within the Reference Databases. You can access them all on one page through the E-Tutorials Link, or you will find them parenthesized after the listing within the database
Wednesday was for the worker in all of us. I was curious about small business resources, job-seeking resources, and other career-improving options. As a small business owner myself, I found a wealth of info in the Small Business Reference Center. There were many downloadable PDFs in a variety of topics like tax deductions, LLCs, record-keeping, trademarks and more. In the Jobs, Education & Practice Test section, I found resources for studying for the U.S. Citizenship Exam, and with ProCitizen you study for the test via the Pronunciator language learning site. Pronunciator has around 90 languages available with self-directed lessons.
By Thursday, I had had enough. Adulting, that is. I wanted to dig through things that interested me in my leisure time. (Leisure time?) I dove into the section labeled “Auto Repair, Hobbies & DIY”. I found an awesome resource called Price It! Antiques and Collectibles, where I priced my 1930s batwing dresser. I’m certain my friend Brent will appreciate me finding this resource so he no longer gets the random, “Hey Brent, look what I found! How much do you think this is worth?” texts. In the “Travel, Maps, & Geography” section I found Sanborn Maps 1867-1970. These maps are a visual representation of history, and through the Library there’s access to all of the Washington State maps. You can search by city, and I spent a bit of time scouring Olympia in 1884.
Come Friday, I wanted a bit of entertainment. In the “Online Learning” section, I found Kanopy where library card holders may stream five free plays per month from a selection of over 30,000 indie and classic films. Films come with Public Performance Rights, too, so they can be shown in public as long as there’s no admission charged.
I got my kids squared away in the “Books & Literature” section where I found TumbleBooks, a treasure trove of audiobooks, games and puzzles for kids. Then, I quickly navigated over to the OverDrive Download Collection to check out an eBook for myself.
I also discovered ProQuest, where scholarly journals, books, magazines, newspapers, and more can be searched (and saved as PDFs). I started fantasizing about Saturday morning where I logged into ProQuest through the Reference Database and read the most current version of The New York Times in its entirety and drank my tea while it was still hot.
The Reference Databases Have Something for Everyone
There’s a solid collection of Reference Databases for perusal, and it’s amazing what can be accessed for free, on any device, in the comforts of home. There are resources for everyone at every stage of life: whether you are in need of job searching or professional development, general research, home and auto repair, or just entertainment. “What I love the most about the Resource Databases,” reports Michelle Larson, TRL’s public relations and creative services coordinator, “are the ‘a-ha moments’ when people realize, ‘I don’t have to pay for that anymore’!”
Visit Timberland Regional Library on the web, and sign in to the databases using your library card and pin. There is also an Ancestry.com database available for genealogy searches, but that database has to be accessed inside of a library. The five branches located throughout Thurston County are:
Lacey: 500 College St SE
Olympia: 313 8th Avenue SE
Tumwater: 7023 New Market St.
Tenino: 172 Central Ave. W
Yelm: 210 Prairie Park St.