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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Databases...

A Library can call their databases many things -- electronic resources, reference databases, library databases, information databases, etc. Normally they are locally developed or commercially available collections of electronic information or references to printed information, that help answer your reference and information needs.
  • What are "Information Databases"
  • Why Should I use these databases?
  • Is there a charge to use these databases?
  • How do I get started using these databases?
  • How do I access these databases when I am not in the Library?
  • Which browsers and settings do I need to access the databases whem I am not in the Library?
  • Do I need a Library PIN (Personal Identification Number) to use these databases?
  • Why can't I access these databases? I entered my card number but it still doesn't work.
  • How do I retrieve information from these databases?
  • Can I print and save and e-mail articles from these databases?
  • How can I tell if a particular newspaper, magazine or journal is available in one of the fulltext databases purchased by the Library?
  • How can I get a copy of an article that I can't find in the fulltext electronic magazine collections?
  • How do I cite an article I have found in one of these databases?
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    What are "Information Databases" [Top]
    The term "Information Databases" refer to reference databases which exist as electronic resources available through the Tacoma Public Library web site. These databases cover many topics. They are available over the internet, but they are not free. The Tacoma Public Library purchases the right to have library card holders access these databases. Sometimes the vendor or owner of the database will only sell access to the database from within the Library while others are also accessible from home or office computers 24 hours a day. Anyone can search these databases at any Tacoma Public Library location using the public catalog computers.
    Why Should I use these databases? [Top]
    These electronic reference databases contain information from reliable sources that has been reviewed and edited. The information in these databases is generally much more reliable than information available from searching the Internet via a search engine. Many of these databases are available 24 hours a day from any computer anywhere to card holders of the Tacoma Public Library.
    Is there a charge to use these databases? [Top]
    No, there is no direct charge to you to use any of these databases. The databases are free for searching because the Library has already bought and paid for the right for Library card holders to use these databases. In most cases any card holder has free remote access from home or office 24 hours per day. There is a $0.10 per page fee for printing if you are using the computers in a library location.
    How do I get started using these databases? [Top]
    The Library Databases page allows you to identify available databases either in an alphabetical list or by various general categories. Databases can be listed for each topic along with brief descriptions of their content, topics covered, and web sites which offer guides to using the various databases. For general information, a good place to start is with the fulltext Magazine & Periodicals, or Newspapers Articles & Current Events topics. Elementary through high school students might want to start with the Homework Resources topic. Some databases will have links that lead to tips for using that database.
    How do I access these databases when I am not in the Library? [Top]
    Most databases are available when you are at home or work if you have a Tacoma Public Library card. Check to make sure the database is not listed as one that the vendor does not allow us to make available outside the Library. We try to purchase every database so that we can offer it to library card holders on a 24x7 basis. If you click on the database name of a commercial database and you are not in a Library you will be prompted to enter your library card number and click on the "[Connect]" button. Your browser will then be taken to the correct database. If you choose a database that does not require a library card you will be taken directly to that database without entering a library card. You should only have to enter you library card at a particular computer once in every 24 hours.
    Which browsers and settings do I need to access the databases when I am not in the Library? [Top]
    This may vary based on the database you choose. Some seem to be more compatible with Internet Explorer (IE) and others with Netscape, and you may be able to tell that by if they have an icon at the bottom of their initial screen indicating a preference. You should be running the latest non-beta version of your browser for maximum compatibility. In general IE seems to be better supported than Netscape, AOL or other browsers. Browsers should have cookies, java, Javascript and frames enabled, and have the latest pdf viewer from Adobe installed. Caching should usually be turned on for best use of these databases. Check the help screen for any database you are using to see if the vendor has specific requirements.

    The commercial databases also require that the Library verify your library card and pass on to the vendor the fact that we have verified your card (not the actual card number). If you have set your security settings so strong that you are an anonymous user this may cause you to be unable to use those databases even with a valid library card until you turn off those security settings.

    Do I need a Library PIN (Personal Identification Number) to use these databases? [Top]
    No, a PIN is not necessary to use any of these databases. The PIN is used only if you want to place on-line reserves in the Library catalog.
    Why can't I access these databases? I entered my card number but it still doesn't work. [Top]
    If you are using a computer from where you work, be aware that some proxy servers and firewalls cause problems in using these databases. Talk to your Systems Administrator at your work to see if that is the problem. If your home or work computer is running personal security software such as BlackICE, Norton Internet Security or their ilk, you may need to reconfigure your security settings to use the databases, normally by turning off your anonymous user settings before the seclection of the database until after you are actually on-line with the database.

    Occasionally the database vendors have technical problems too. Try to access the database again later time. Call Telephone Reference at (253) 292-2001 to report continuing and persistent problems.

    How do I retrieve information from these databases? [Top]
    These database are on the internet and generally work like any other web page. Fill out the search boxes and Click on links to retrieve information on your selected topics. The Magazine & Periodicals databases generally have a link for "text" or "fulltext" displays. Click on those links to view the full text of an article. Look for the database help function, which may be a [?] or [Help] button or icon, for specific tips once you are in a specific database.
    Can I print and save and e-mail articles from these databases? [Top]
    You can print from most databases. Look for a print function that reformats the display to reduce the number of printed pages or to clear up the clutter. You can also just have the browser print what is on the screen using the [Print] command. Many databases, but not all, will allow you to save what is displayed on to a floppy diskette or to e-mail the contents of the screen to yourself or others. A few databases may limit the number of pages you can print or save.
    How can I tell if a particular newspaper, magazine or journal is available in one of the fulltext databases purchased by the Library? [Top]
    The Library offers an electronic journal finding tool. This alphabetical list of periodical titles will tell you if a specific title is available in the electronic databases available through the Tacoma Public Library. The link to the electronic journal finder appears at the top of all Library Database web pages.
    How can I get a copy of an article that I can't find in the fulltext electronic magazine collections? [Top]
    Check the Library Catalog to see if the Library owns the title in paper or microform. If the Library does not own the article you need please call Telephone Reference at (253) 292-2001 for information on obtaining a copy of the article via Inter-Library Loan (ILL).
    How do I cite an article I have found in one of these databases? [Top]
    When you find a document for a research paper you will want the appropriate information for the bibliography section of your paper. Complete citation information can usually be obtained from the database result display. Some databases offer a sample citation format for you to use. You may want to look at the Duke University Libraries' "Citing Sources" for examples of how to format your citation for any of the four most used style manuals: Turabian, MLA, APA and Chicago.

    Last Updated 22.01.2012