University digital resources - help me take advantage of them!
July 14, 2010 12:09 PM   Subscribe

Beyond the stacks - what library e-resources shouldn't I miss as a new grad student?

I just got accepted into a Masters program in the life sciences at Johns Hopkins. I'm excited - and not least because it means I'm getting a login with full remote access to all the university library databases. No more driving out to my undergrad alma mater's library whenever I can't get full text off of PubMed, wooo!

So, mefites - what great tools, journals and databases shouldn't I miss? Science/public health/business will be my primary focus for coursework, but I'm equally excited about having digital access to the OED for the first time since 2006.
posted by deludingmyself to Education (15 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
It's not a database as such, but see if your library has a BookEye or functional equivalent. It's a scanner which will let you digitize any book you come across. It's just PDF, so it isn't searchable, but it's perfect for that book your professor put on reserve which you can only check out for two hours at a time.
posted by valkyryn at 12:14 PM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

This isn't exactly what you asked, but don't forget interlibrary loan. JHU is almost surely part of some arrangement where you can request to borrow books from libraries other institutions and they arrive a few days later in the mail. Similarly, you can probably get scanned copies of journal articles that only exist on paper Somewhere Else, although whether this is relevant to you or not depends on whether you spend time looking at the older literature.
posted by madcaptenor at 12:21 PM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I like digging around in JSTOR for older articles on all sorts of topics. It's better for Humanities than Sciences (yes, it's got some, but there are better resources for science), but there is always something fun to spend a couple hours reading.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:21 PM on July 14, 2010

Best answer: This is a list of subject specialist librarians at your library. Pick a couple and take your question to them -- you'll make their whole day! Looks like they also have a podcast that talks about what subject specialists do, which might be helpful to listen to.
posted by clavicle at 12:33 PM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your school has librarians dedicated to each of these fields - schedule a meeting with one or more of them. You'll be glad you did.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:33 PM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Do you have a good reference manager? It looks like you'll have free access to Refworks through your library system. It's been a life saver. You can import reference citations directly from some databases and then export them in pretty much any style you need. It will create bibliographies for you and format in text citations. You can attach the pdf right to database, and because it's all stored online you can access your account from anywhere.
posted by Eumachia L F at 12:36 PM on July 14, 2010

Response by poster: Appreciate the answers so far. To clarify, I'll be a mostly remote student - JHU has some great masters programs with courses both online and on-site, and I'm very excited to be starting one in the fall. I've already found the database list coolguymichael linked to.

As the kind of person who can get completely lost in the Science & Nature archives from the 1950s, I find my choices completely overwhelming. I enjoy browsing this stuff for fun, so I thought I'd survey the AskMe crowd (and our host of Library Scientists) for some interesting, subscription-only sources that I'll now have access to, but might not discover in the course of simple research searches in my areas of expertise.

Alternately, if there's a database in the life sciences that has really improved since ~2005 (Web of Science?), that'd be interesting too.
posted by deludingmyself at 12:41 PM on July 14, 2010

Make an appointment with the reference librarian who specializes in your field and ask them what useful and new digital resources are available for you. They will know far better than us schlubs on the intarwebs what's available to you. Bonus points for making the appointment now, before the fall semester starts and they're snowed under.

If you're into genealogy or history, does your library have a subscription to Lots of fun records - census, immigration, military, etc. - to poke through.

Check how many streaming music/video databases they have. You won't find a whole lot of modern popular stuff, but if you like eclectic music, classical, world music, and various classic plays you should be happy.

Assuming you'll be using the Sheridan Libraries, looks like they have a blog you can check for updates and news about new resources. Ah, and here's their services for grad students page. They have RefWorks, which is a VERY USEFUL online citation management tool. If you use the Eisenhower library, it looks like they have document delivery services, although I assume it's to the department only. And it looks like you're got reciprocal borrowing and access agreements with several other area libraries.

Check the catalog for how many ebooks are available to you, as well.
posted by telophase at 12:45 PM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not science related, but see if you can get access to the Naxos Music Library (with Peabody there, I can't imagine that they don't, but there still might be some restrictions on off-campus use.) If you're a classical buff, it's all kinds of awesome.
posted by Johnny Assay at 1:21 PM on July 14, 2010

Mendeley is great as well to manage citations. It is more user friendly than refworks in my opinion, allows you to network contacts and share research areas and will sync with your home computer. That said, refworks is very integrated and much better at managing books and other references as it has access to hundreds of library catalogs.

The best advice though is to start organizing it right away so you can have a good set of well-organized research when the heavy projects come in! Congrats and good luck!
posted by occidental at 1:35 PM on July 14, 2010

I want to second interlibrary loan. I kind of suspect few people take advantage of it. Occasionally I find I want to read a book that my library doesn't have. All I have to do is find a copy in worldcat and fill out a request through my library; most of the time, they'll be able to borrow it. I've had luck with some really obscure stuff before.

You should get used to the idea of using the academic indices. Perhaps PubMed is all you need in your field in which case you're fine. However, my school provide a tool called MetaLib that I expect is pretty common; it lets you search multiple indices at once. I also use Google Scholar pretty heavily but the two are complementary. Google doesn't get all the journals, but it gets a lot more grey literature.

Speaking of grey literature, your library probably has some kind of database for government, industry, NGO, etc publications. Your librarians can tell you about this.

If a brand new report or book comes out and you need to read it and can only get access by paying, you can suggest the library purchase it. The one time I've done this, they bought it within a few months.

If there is a paper you are trying and failing to locate a copy of, the library can help you. A lot of libraries have on online "ask a librarian" support chat. I've used it several times when stumped and occasionally had success. It's a convenient way to get help quickly. If that fails, you can turn to a subject librarian, who will be able to find it if it is findable.

And on preview, cool stuff you now have access to for recreational purposes.... well basically all of human knowledge. Do you have any specific interests you want to explore?
posted by PercussivePaul at 1:53 PM on July 14, 2010

Science, you say? Look at Digital Dissertations so you know what new research has been done recently that perhaps hasn't yet been published.
posted by Knowyournuts at 2:58 PM on July 14, 2010

I want to second interlibrary loan. I kind of suspect few people take advantage of it.

I would have never gotten through my undergrad studies without interlibrary loans! Use them! Use them!

Also, see if you have access to the "MLA International Bibliography" it's a lifesaver. Someone mentioned JSTOR previously... I can be lost in their database for days.
posted by patheral at 3:16 PM on July 14, 2010

Best answer: When I worked in an academic library we would regularly hold one-on-one and group sessions for students and new faculty members to go over the online resources that were available in their disciplines. I am betting JHU's librarians would be happy to do the same.

I know that JHU has subscriptions to databases like BIOSIS Previews (a premier life sciences database covering articles, books, meeting papers, etc.), Web of Science (with good coverage in the life sciences), Scopus, and Zoological Record. All of these databases should link to instant full text articles or indicate some other way to get the full text. Again, the librarians can give you a better idea of how you can access and search these resources.

As a couple people have already mentioned, there are various online citation managers out there that are really huge time-savers when it comes to creating bibliographies in the correct format, in a snap. JHU subscribes to one called Refworks, but there are others out there too (Mendeley, Citavi, Zotero, Endnote Web).
posted by medeine at 5:30 PM on July 14, 2010

Since you're a distance ed student, you'll want to take advantage of the library's services for getting help from off campus. From the Ask a Librarian page on the library site, I see that you can send your questions to them via email (actually, an online form you fill out and they send their replies to your email address), via Twitter, or via the reference desk telephone.
posted by stephenfrancoeur at 1:44 PM on July 15, 2010

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