Cool Databases to Use: What’s a RedLightGreen?

No, it’s not a typo and I’m not going to be talking about stoplights.

When blogging the Google Scholar news I realized that since I started working with Danny and Chris on the SEW Blog, I never mentioned another large (and I think very useful) database to find and access library books called RedLightGreen. It’s easy to use and includes plenty of features. We’ve been blogging about it on ResourceShelf since October 2003 when this impressive tool was first launched.

What Is It?
RedLightGreen is being developed by RLG, a library organization based in California. This database is what librarians call a “union catalog” and contains bibliographic information for more than 120 million books. Is that it? Hardly! RedLightGreen offers much more. Btw, RedLightGreen is free to access and use.

Plenty of Features
Here’s a search for “Internet History”.

An advanced search interface with a few more search options is also available.

Results pages not only contain a list of “hits” but lots of help to help you narrow and focus your results. Look in the column on the left side of the page. Here you’ll find:

+ Options to focus your search to a specific subject. Where do these subject links come from? They’re from the subject headings that have been assigned to the books in your results list. They’ve been assigned to the books by human catalogers from a controlled vocabulary called Library of Congress Subject Headings. Taking advantage of subject headings/descriptors can often allow you to find just the right material(s) very quickly.
+ You’ll also see a clickable list of all of the authors in the results list.
+ Finally, if you want to limit your search to language in a certain language, it’s only a click away.

Entry Pages
O.K., I have a list of books, now what? Let’s look at a page for a specific title. Two things to note here:

+ The green box in the upper right side of the page labeled, “Get it at your library.” If you click this link, you can quickly check if a specific library holds the item with just one click. In fact, RLG just added direct links to THOUSANDS MORE local library catalogs around world. If you register (free and fast), the library you select (it’s still easy to check others) will always be linked and listed.

+ Another green box on the right side of the page provides links to not only create a list of saved items but also, get this, format the list into one of four bibliography formats It’s easy to then send the bibliography via email or print it. Cool!

+ Results pages also contain a link to find the item (if available) in the database along links from Google.

+ Easy Access
Last week, RedLightGreen announced that a plugin for the Firefox toolbar was available.

We’ve only scratched the surface on what’s available and I hope to write more about the project soon. RedLightGreen is more than worthy or your attention. You can read more about it here and here.

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