Library Databases: What’s Inside Them?

Why Library Databases?

Although the internet houses great resources, some websites are not appropriate for college-level research, and sometimes professors have concerns over the information that students might encounter online. In a previous chapter we explored Fact-Checking, and in a later chapter, we will discuss Web Search Strategies to find relevant and reliable resources. Unfortunately, you can’t find everything through a Google search, which is one reason why you’d want to use a library database.

Most library databases provide access to resources that you would normally subscribe to or pay for, such as a newspaper. You can access some newspaper articles for free online, but websites often limit the amount of articles you can view freely. For example, if you visit the Los Angeles Times online you might be able to view one or two articles. After that point, you will need to purchase a subscription to read more. But a library database will provide free access for students and professors at your college.

Another advantage of using a library database is that the resources are secured and safe to access. Some websites require you to accept additional considerations and agreements  before accessing materials. But what are you agreeing to? Websites, by their nature, are dynamic resources; their content can change without warning. A resource in a database typically will not change and will often come with a permanent link (sometimes called a “permalink”) so that you can find and share the resource in the future.

Please watch the following video [2:34] for a concise summary of the key differences between using library databases and the Web for your research:

Note: Turn on closed captions with the “CC” button or use the text transcript if you prefer to read.

Additional Database Features

Library databases tend to come with additional tools to support your research. These tools can include help with writing citations, easy-to-use filters to limit your search results, and options to save the article for later use. Whenever you use a library database, you will want to become acquainted with these additional features that will streamline and support your research process.

Takeaways: Library Databases vs. Websites



Library Databases Websites
Cost Always free for students to access. Varies. Sometimes you can access resources freely, other times you can’t.
Privacy & Security Exposure of students’ information is limited through the databases. You often must “agree to terms” before accessing content on a website.
Reliability Information in a library database will not change unless the subscription changes. Websites are dynamic, and content can change daily.
Features Databases typically come with a range of tools to help you find relevant resources. You have more control over the results you want to see. Search engines online have limited features to narrow down results. You have less control over the results you want to see.


What Are Databases and Why You Need Them.” YouTube, uploaded by Yavapai College Library, 29 Sept. 2011.


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Introduction to College Research Copyright © by Walter D. Butler; Aloha Sargent; and Kelsey Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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