Wednesday, March 13

The Virtual Reference Collection

The Virtual Reference Collection

The Reference Department at the Flowood Library offers exceptional assistance to our patrons who are performing research. One of the information assets that we have for our patrons is the Virtual Reference Collection found on the CMRLS website.

Often patrons come in and want a book on a certain subject because they have a research paper to do. We assist them in finding a book but also mention to them about the resources in our Virtual Reference Collection. Usually, they will say that their teacher said they had to use a book as a resource and not the internet. And that's when we explain to them that the references in our databases contain a variety of resources including academic journals and articles.

Well, by this time we have their attention, because, let's face it, the generation that is doing research papers is much more oriented to the technological arena.

My favorite two databases to show to patrons are Explora and World Book Online. On Explora, the research databases are separated by grade levels. But we don't just tell them about the databases, we actually go to the computer and demonstrate how to use the databases.

Our CMRLS website offers a more detailed explanation of what Explora can do.

"Explora provides easy-to-use features and reliable content from the world's leading magazine and reference books. A simple search and category browse quickly deliver relevant results including primary source documents, more articles, and Associated Press videos. Topic overviews provide users with a starting point for research."

For example, a patron could come to us and tell us that they were doing a research paper on World War II. Well, that's a good topic and of course, we have books on World War II, but it is usually best to attempt to narrow the topic down a bit and introduce the patron to our online resources. For the purpose of this blog, I am going to use Explora to explain the process.

First of all, there is a search box where the person can type in any words to find books, journals, or magazines. Since I mentioned World War II I am going to type that in the search box. When I type in World War II, I find that there are 240,097 resources. Obviously, that's entirely too many, so my next step is to ask the patron if they have a thesis for their paper. Some patrons, especially the younger ones aren't really sure what a thesis is. So, I continue to interview them by asking what it is that they would like to write about World War II. Often times they really don't know. So, we go back to the word "thesis" and I explain that the thesis is a statement that usually is written at the beginning of the page that sets forth the theme of their paper. It can be a belief or opinion that they may want to prove.

If the patron doesn't decide on a theme, I would suggest one so we could do an Advanced Search on Explora that would narrow down the results. A topic that could be used for World War II is the Holocaust. So, we would show the patron how to do an advanced search. You simply select Advanced Search, type in the main topic, which in this case is World War II and then in the search box under the main search box you would type in Holocaust. By doing this I found that there are 6,381 results. So, the patron could either browse through some of those or narrow the search down from that.

Once a patron is aware of what the library has to offer in the Virtual Reference Collection, they are both impressed and excited. They also like the fact that they can do this on their own computer at home. However, a library card is needed to access the websites offered in the Virtual Reference Collection.

There are many collections other than Explora that are available for use in the CMRLS digital library collection. They are of a variety in the nature of their subject and purpose. In my opinion, the databases that CMRLS has to offer are one of the best reasons to come into the library. The reference resources are remarkable. For example, free Mississippi DMV Practice Tests are available. There is an online site with free ACT and other Prep Resources. If entertainment is something in which you are interested, Freegal and Flipster are available.

Freegal is a resource in which a person can download five songs each week at no cost on to a smartphone or tablet.  Streaming is also available. Flipster is a collection of current issues of magazines that can be viewed at no cost.

I would encourage you to visit the CMRLS web page.

Click on Virtual Reference Collection and find out all the resources that we have, and remember they are free. It is important to emphasize that a library card with CMRLS is needed and in some cases the pin number associated with the account is required.

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