From databases to subject matter expertise: How journalists can partner with librarians to get the story 

Every library contains a goldmine of resources for journalists. From academic research and government documents to the librarians themselves, reporters will find an array of tools in libraries to dig for stories and sources.

April Hines, journalism and mass communications librarian for the George A. Smathers Libraries at the University of Florida, shared tips for journalists on working with librarians during a National Press Club Journalism Institute webinar on Sept. 8.

On collaborating with librarians:

  • Be clear about your deadline. Many librarians have master’s degrees in information science, which makes them experts at finding and using information. This can be valuable for journalists who need to compile background information quickly. Just make sure to discuss your timeline from the start in case your librarian needs to contact another library to get relevant data.
  • Enlist the help of a subject librarian — experts with deep knowledge of resources on a specific topic. And they don’t have to be in your town to help. Your local academic librarian can connect you with subject experts from different institutions. Or, try the “Ask a Librarian” chat feature online that allows you to ask questions from anywhere.
  • Take advantage of the library’s physical space. While the purpose of an academic library is to serve the university community, members of the public can still request guest access to many of these spaces and use the proprietary resources and subscription databases in person.

Four examples of databases that make a trip to the academic library worth your time:

  • D&B Hoovers offers in-depth company profiles with financial information.
  • IBISWorld is a top industry intelligence database that analyzes economic, demographic, and market data around the world.
  • Statista is a statistical search engine where journalists can find facts, figures, charts, and reports on more than 170 industries around the world.
  • Web of Science provides access to scientific and academic research and can help journalists find expert sources, top researchers, and what topics are getting published or funded the most.

Don’t forget about the wealth of databases available at public libraries:

Similar to academic libraries, public libraries offer many databases. Learn more about the specifics in your area here. Some examples of these resources include:

  • In Michigan, with a library card or state ID, locals can use Academic Search Complete, a database on a variety of topics with articles from academic journals, magazines, newspapers, and other credible sources.
  • In Washington, D.C., residents with a library card can search PressReader, which provides unlimited access to more than 7,000 publications from around the world.
  • With a Florida IP address, you can utilize the Florida Electronic Library, which includes access to the Gale Business: DemographicsNow database.
  • At the Evanston Public Library in Illinois, residents can use for historical research.

Before submitting an open records request, try accessing government documents online or at your library:

  • The public has free access to government documents released by the Government Printing Office. Many of these are easily found online, but a librarian can help streamline your search.
  • More than 1,100 libraries across the U.S. are federal depository libraries, which means government documents are sent to them directly and then available to the public at no cost. Again, a librarian can help uncover specific records and narrow down a search.
  • Archival materials like maps, imagery, manuscripts, and other historical documents are available in the library, both digitally and physically. Check your local library to see what you have access to.

For more tips, watch the webinar:

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