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Metaforix@Health: Free Online Resources for Public Library Users: Texas and New York

By Lois C. Ambash, Published on August 21, 2004

Lois C. Ambash is President and Chief Infomaven of Metaforix Incorporated, whose services include organizational assessment and planning activities, web site and e-letter content development, and design and delivery of customized workshops for healthcare, education, business, and community organizations. Lois holds a PhD in American Culture and Writing, Master’s degrees in Library/Information Science and Public Policy, and a Bachelor’s degree in English. She serves on the board of the Internet Healthcare Coalition and on URAC’s Health Web Site Accreditation Committee, and is a frequent writer and speaker on e-health, Internet research, business communications, and organizational culture. Read or subscribe to Lois’s blog, Metaforix@.



This column continues my exploration of resources freely available online from remote locations to holders of public library cards -- with an emphasis on full-text health resources. Last month's column on California libraries explains my strategy for covering all of the state libraries, along with many of the largest city library systems. As with the California libraries, you may expect to find a similarly rich array of resources on topics other than health.

Once again, I've found some surprising gems of user-friendly access. The Houston Public Library, for example, offers nonresident access at a cost of $40 per year, with no need ever to visit the library in person. (I'm tempted to join for OED Online alone.) The New York Public Library nonresident fee is $100 per year and may also be purchased without visiting the library. It’s interesting to compare the online databases available to Houston and New York card holders from the perspective of your own research needs, and also to note that New York, the nation's largest city, is the only city in the state to appear on the national Top 50 cities list.

The Austin Public Library encourages nonresidents to join by comparing the cost to other entertainment purchases. Three months' library access costs $16.75, billed as equivalent to "dinner alone at a nice restaurant." Not in my neighborhood -- but then again, a quick visit to the Salary Calculator informs me that the cost of living is over 2.5 times higher here in Manhattan than it is in Austin. No wonder everything seems so expensive!

My "best of the best" list will appear as the finale to this series of reports.

Again, I have used Onfolio to compile this column. If you would like a copy complete with graphics as an Onfolio report, contact me at TXHealth @ metaforix.com. The column will arrive as an e-mail attachment in .mht format, viewable in Internet Explorer. Last month's column is available by e-mailing CAHealth @ metaforix.com.


Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Home page: http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/index.html

User eligibility: Password-based and fee-based services are limited to Texas residents, Texas state and local government employees, employees of other libraries, and faculty and students of library science. Online registration is available to all of the foregoing except residents.
E-mail reference services are available weekdays from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm at reference.desk@tsl.state.tx.us

Selected online resources available to all site visitors: 

Note: Many of these sites and publications are available in Spanish.

The Library Catalog of Texas State Agencies is a searchable online catalog of the holdings of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC), along with the holdings of its five partner agencies. The catalog lists locations and call numbers.

TSLAC holdings include government records and other state archival materials; a reference and documents collection incorporating a state and federal law library and statistical records; a genealogy collection incorporating indexes to state vital records; and the holdings of the Sam Houston historical research center and museum.

Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts holdings reflect the agency's role as the state's "fiscal watchdog," including taxes, economic forecasting, and assistance to local government. Some documents are available online. Recent health-related examples include:

Forgotten Children, a July 2004 report on the Texas foster care system.

Texas Health Claims Study, the most recent in a series of reports on the Medicaid and workers' compensation programs.

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality publications reflect the agency's responsibility for air quality, water quality, and waste disposal. Health related documents available online include:

State Superfund sites, with map links, descriptions, and status reports

Numerous reports and indices of air quality data.

Numerous reports on quality and availability of surface and ground water.

Regulations governing management and transportation of medical waste.

Texas State Law Library holdings include comprehensive links to state and federal legal publications. Health related online documents include:

Texas Statutes organized by code, including the Health and Safety code.

Consumer-oriented links to the websites of a variety of state agencies, including the state Board of Medical Examiners, whose homepage highlights recent license suspensions.

Texas Department of Information Resources publications reflect the agency's responsibility for coordinating information technologies and services for various state and local government agencies. Online documents deal primarily with technology infrastructure standards.

Texas Workers Compensation Commission publications reflect the agency's responsibility for worker health and safety. Representative publications available online include:

Health and safety checklists, fact sheets, educational materials, and assessment tools addressed to workers, employers, and health industry professionals.

Links to the sites of state and federal government agencies, universities, and other providers of information on workplace health and safety, occupational diseases, ergonomics, and related topics

TSLAC's TRAIL service provides online access to all electronic publications of Texas state agencies.

TexShare Online Databases are searchable, primarily full-text databases available to card holders of participating Texas libraries. Access limitations are noted in the city library entries below. Health-related resources include:

Clinical Pharmacology, comprising "clinically-relevant drug monographs for all U.S. prescription drugs, hard-to-find herbal and nutritional supplements, over-the-counter products, and new and investigational drugs"

Health and Wellness Resource Center, comprising medical ready-reference sources, general interest and professional medical publications, key health websites, and low-literacy health websites.

Health Reference Center Academic, an integrated database of general interest and professional health, medical, and fitness publications.

Health Source: Consumer Edition, a searchable full-text database of popular health magazines, general health journals, and other references sources.

Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition, comprising searchable full text of over 500 scholarly journals, emphasizing nursing and allied health professions, along with ready reference materials and abstracts from several hundred additional medical journals.

Psychology and Behavioral Science Collection, comprising searchable full text of 480 journals in psychiatry, psychology, and related disciplines, plus PDF images of an additional 430 peer-reviewed journals.

Stat!Ref, an electronic library aimed at doctors, nurses, insurers, and researchers that enables cross-searching of 35 clinical and drug reference databases.


Houston Public Library

Home page: http://www.hpl.lib.tx.us/hpl/ 

Library card eligibility: Houston residents, Texas residents, and non-resident owners of property in Houston are freely eligible for library cards. Others -- including those residing in other states and countries -- may purchase cards at a cost of $40 per year. It is not necessary to visit the library in person to purchase a non-resident card.

Selected online resources available to all site visitors:

Catalog of holdings of the Houston Public Library.

InfoLive! online reference service for brief factual and search assistance, available during limited weekday hours.

Selected online resources restricted to HPL card holders:

HPL Power Search: Integrated search of HPL's electronic holdings, including most TexShare resources listed under the State Library entry, the library's catalog, and various directory searches.

Dallas Public Library

Home page: http://dallaslibrary.org/  (English) or http://dallasbiblioteca.org/  (Spanish)

Library card eligibility: Dallas residents are freely eligible for library cards, as are employees of businesses within the city who use the library for business purposes and teachers in the Dallas public schools. For non-residents, the cost of a card ranges from $175 per year for unlimited borrowing privileges to $20 for borrowing five items.

Selected online resources available to all site visitors:

Catalog of holdings of the Dallas Public Library

Career Page, consisting of links to about 40 local, regional, and national job search sites

Growing On page of resources for older adults, including health, eldercare, Medicare, and related links

Health and Medicine guide, consisting of links to an eclectic assortment of about a dozen sites and databases

DPL Consumer Health Information Project, a joint effort of DPL and Texas Women's University, comprising a much more extensive set of health links aimed at Dallas residents. E-mail reference questions are accepted.

Selected online resources restricted to DPL card holders:

CQ Electronic Resources, comprising government, policy, and legal information, including health-related topics
An extensive selection of TexShare databases, as listed in the State Library entry above.


City of San Antonio Library

Home page: http://www.sanantonio.gov/library (English) or http://www.sanantonio.gov/library/espanol/ (Spanish)

Library card eligibility: Residents of San Antonio and Bexar County are freely eligible for library cards, as are Bexar County property owners and business owners with appropriate documentation. Nonresidents may purchase a card for $60, in person with photo ID.

Selected online resources available to all site visitors:

Catalog of holdings of the San Antonio Library

Medicine and Health websites page, comprising an unusually comprehensive set of links to health and medical sites and resources, including local hospitals and healthcare systems

Selected online resources restricted to DPL card holders:

Most TexShare databases, as listed in the State Library entry above

Noticias en Español Spanish-language newspaper and wire service articles

ReferenceUSA subscription database of business, government, and residential phone numbers


Austin Public Library

Home page: http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/library/ (English) or http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/library/spanish.htm (Spanish)

Library card eligibility: Residents of Austin with acceptable proof of residency are freely eligible for library cards, as are nonresident students and faculty of Austin Community College and cardholders of participating TexShare libraries. The nonresident library card fee is $52 per year, with discounts for Austin Energy customers and senior citizens. The library encourages nonresident applicants.

Selected online resources available to all site visitors:

Catalog of holdings of the Austin Public Library

Referral guide to community services for Austin residents, including some health-related services

A well-chosen selection of reference links, with emphasis on local resources

Everything Austin Texas links, including government and statistical resources

Ask a Librarian e-mail reference service with 24-hour target response time on weekdays

Selected online resources restricted to APL card holders:

Many TexShare databases, as listed in the State Library entry above

Extensive news databases, including Factiva


New York State Library

Home page: http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/

User eligibility: Most online materials are available to all site visitors, except as noted

Library card eligibility: New York State residents are eligible for direct on-site borrowing privileges and access to restricted NOVEL databases under a 6-month pilot project that began in June, 2004. Other eligible borrowers include state government employees, members of the New York State bar, physicians licensed to practice in the state, local historians of communities within the state, and retired government employees. Special limitations apply to residents under the pilot program.

Interlibrary loans are available in state for free and outside the state for a fee, by request through libraries. Individual requests are not accepted.
Limited e-mail reference service is available with reference to holdings of the State Library.

Selected online resources available to all site visitors:

An extensive series of Internet Bibliographies includes an extensive but dated (December, 2001) Health and Medicine section. Some databases are available in Spanish.

More current Internet Bibliographies with health-related content include selected Census websites, African-American resources, Business resources, Disability resources, and Science resources

Excelsior, the integrated catalog of holdings of the New York State Library, the State Archives, historical documents housed in repositories throughout the state, and manuscripts and special collections

A tutorial for compiling a legislative history of a New York State law

An extensive guide to New York State documents available online

Selected NOVEL (New York Virtual Electronic Library) databases, restricted to holders of New York State borrower cards and/or card holders of participating public libraries, including

Health Reference Center Academic, an integrated database of general interest and professional health, medical, and fitness publications

Business and Company Resource Center, comprising 300,000 company profiles

General Science Collection, consisting of searchable full-text articles from 60 science journals

InfoTrac Custom Newspapers, comprising 150 full-text newspapers, including the current year of the New York Times


New York Public Library
Home page: http://nypl.org

Library card eligibility: Branch library cards -- required to borrow circulating materials and for remote access to the subscription databases available online -- are freely available to "anyone who lives, works, pays property taxes, or attends school in New York State." The nonresident fee is $100 per year, payable by downloading an application and mailing it with a check, with no residency restrictions for purchasing a card.

Selected online resources available to all site visitors:

CATNYP, the online catalog of the Research Collections of NYPL, comprising over 6 million records for titles in print, electronic, and other media, in over 370 languages or dialects. Most of these records represent holdings acquired since 1972. The remaining holdings are accessible only through the 800-volume Dictionary Catalog of the Research Libraries. The main research collections include the Humanities and Social Sciences Library, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the Science, Industry, and Business Library.

Subject-specific, printable online guides to the Research Collections, whose broadly health-related topics include Gay and Lesbian Studies, Women's Studies, Occult Sciences and Parapsychology, Industry-Specific Directories, International Statistical Yearbooks, Market Research Information, Government Information, Psychology, and Science and Technology

LEO, the catalog of the Branch libraries

NYPL's Best of the Web, comprising selected, annotated links to thousands of online texts, sites, search engines, forms, and other materials. The Health and Medicine section alone boasts over 200 links, whose highlights include sections on AIDS/HIV, Evaluating Health information, Insurance, and Health Information in Other Languages.

Free Databases on the Web, comprising an annotated, alphabetical set of links to free databases. Health-related topics include AMA Select, Associations on the Net, FEDSTATS, Psychoanalytic Literature, and many others.

NOAH (New York Online Access to Health), the award-winning consumer health portal available in English and Spanish

Selected online resources restricted to NYPL Branch card holders, including NOVEL and other proprietary databases and representing a small fraction of the proprietary databases available in the research libraries:

Clinical Pharmacology, comprising "clinically-relevant drug monographs for all U.S. prescription drugs, hard-to-find herbal and nutritional supplements, over-the-counter products, and new and investigational drugs"

Directory of Special Libraries and Information Centers

Encyclopedia of Associations

Health Source Consumer, a searchable full-text database of popular health magazines, general health journals, and other references sources.

Health Source Nursing/Academic, comprising searchable full text of over 500 scholarly journals, emphasizing nursing and allied health professions, along with ready reference materials and abstracts from several hundred additional medical journals.

Health Reference Center Academic, a searchable full-text database of magazine and newspaper articles from 1193 to the present

New York State Newspapers, consisting of ten full-text major newspapers, including the New York Times, extending backwards from one to five years

Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection, comprising searchable full text of 480 journals in psychiatry, psychology, and related disciplines, plus PDF images of an additional 430 peer-reviewed journals.


© 2004, Lois C. Ambash, Metaforix Incorporated. All rights reserved.