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Reviews of Literary Databases

Bloom’s Literature
Bloom’s Literature is one of the many databases available through the Library of the Chathams, providing access to a variety of books, peer-reviewed journals, magazines, and other periodicals.  It contains plot summaries, character descriptions, biographies, analyses, and critical essays written by renowned scholar Harold Bloom.  It also includes an eBook shelf filled with more than 1,000 full-text works of classic literature.  These digital books are full-text and customizable: the font size and background lighting can be adjusted, and the page can be switched from single to double view.  One of the database’s more interesting features is its video collection of full-length dramatic productions, educational videos, and podcasts.

This database has plenty of resources to help students with research.  It explains how to evaluate and properly cite sources, and it also offers tips on writing research papers, like choosing a topic and conducting research.  All the content is well-organized with complete indexes for authors, characters, and literary works.  The most studied authors, literary works, and characters are featured right on the home page.  The database has a simple design with clearly readable text, and it allows for easy browsing.

It is not so straightforward when it comes to searching for specific content, though.  Users have to click under the search options tab in order to have more control of the results the search yields and even then, they can only limit the results by record type.  Overall, Bloom’s Literature contains a wealth of online reference materials and it should be recommended for use by all high school and college students.

Literary Reference Center
Literary Reference Center is another good database that is highly recommended for meeting the literature reference needs of high school and college students.  Users can find a ton of information on so many authors and their works by looking through all the content available in the database.  This includes synopses, work overviews, book reviews, author biographies, and literary criticism.  In addition, this database provides free access to thousands of well-respected literary journals, magazines, and periodicals, like the Oxford Literary Review, The New Yorker, Booklist, Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews.  There are also reference books and encyclopedias available, like Beacham’s Research Guide to Biography and Criticism, The Oxford Illustrated History of English Literature, The New Princeton Encyclopedia, and Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of Literature.

Literary Reference Center allows for easy browsing of all publications within the collection.  Digital copies of literary magazines, like Publishers Weekly, are available to view as a PDF through the database.  They are up-to-date, full-text and cover-to-cover.  Having complete access to news and analyses on the book publishing industry makes this database more than just a great research tool for students; it is the perfect resource for librarians, agents, and writers.

Literary Reference Center is user-friendly.  The simple search box on the homepage gives users the option to search by keyword, author, or title, making it easier for quick searching.  What is great about this database is that it allows users more control of their search results under the advanced search tab; it gives them the ability to sort search results by content type, publication date, subject, or publication.  The homepage is organized nicely, and the “Book Highlight”, “Featured Work”, and “Featured Author” sections are a great way to spotlight popular works and writers and provide inspiration to students and researchers.  The database’s only flaw is that the text is a little too small which can make reading a little difficult.

Gale Literature
A third database that can also be considered a valuable resource to have is Gale Literature.  It includes three literary databases: Gale Literature Criticism, Gale Literature Resource Center, and Gale Literature: Twayne’s Author Series.  This ability to search across multiple databases offers students and researchers the opportunity to look through and analyze content from a wide variety of materials simultaneously.

Gale Literature Criticism includes years of scholarly and popular analysis from encyclopedias, books and periodicals, and through Gale Literature Resource Center, users can find up-to-date biographies, overviews, full-text literary criticism and book reviews on many writers from all eras and from around the world.  Other content available from the database are broadcast transcripts, audio files, sound recording reviews, movie reviews, video recording reviews, and television program reviews.

One aspect of Gale Literature that looks as though it could use some improvement is the homepage.  All that appears is a simple search box and icons that users can click on either for more information about what is inside the database, to perform a person search or work search, or to look through search history.  There are no sections to highlight the most popular literary works or authors.  Compared to other databases, it is way too plain and looks empty.  However, the database does allow users to filter their search results by subjects, name of work, author, publication title, and document type, and it also gives them the option to select for only peer-viewed journals to appear in the results.  This ability to limit the results that a search yields can be really helpful for students conducting research and is something any good database really should have.

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