Metaforix@Health – Free Online Resources for Public Library Users: Michigan and the District of Columbia

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 .Previous columns have covered the state libraries and large city libraries located in California , Texas, and New York , Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio. (I’m working my way through all the states in order of population, according to the 2002 Census, covering the state library along with one or more large cities.)

If you’re wondering why the District of Columbia appears at this point in the list, its population is smaller than Detroit’s and larger than Newark’s – and New Jersey follows Michigan in the roster of states in order of population.

The first gem of the month is the Detroit Public Library’s link to the University of Michigan Documents Center, a treasure trove of free online information from and about government agencies of all kinds and sizes. As a U of M alumna, I don’t know whether I’m more embarrassed at my ignorance of this resource or proud of my alma mater’s usual excellent work. Gem number two is the Michigan eLibrary’s extraordinary Internet Collection of 30,000 free sites selected and kept up-to-date by librarians who are identified by name and who welcome correspondence from users of the collection. The collection is complemented by Pathfinders that assist users in navigating the collection.

The most unfortunate find of the month also comes from the Detroit Public Library, none of whose commercial databases are available for remote access. I take this as an extreme example of the funding challenges that confront libraries around the country, and I won’t be surprised to find more as this set of columns reaches smaller and poorer municipalities

As with past columns in this series, I have used Onfolio to compile this column. If you would like a copy complete with graphics as an Onfolio report, contact me at MIHealth @ The column will arrive as an e-mail attachment in .mht format, viewable in Internet Explorer. (An aside: Onfolio has just launched a beta test of its new version, which is fully functional in Foxfire as well as Internet Explorer and includes a newsreader, among a host of other new features. I just downloaded it yesterday, so I’m not yet familiar with any differences that may affect Foxfire users who request this column as an Onfolio report.)

The Library of Michigan

Home page :,1607,7-160-17445_19270—,00.html

Overview and Mission: The Library of Michigan is the official state library and is part of the Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries (HAL). It ‘promotes, advocates and consistently works to achieve the highest level of library service to the State of Michigan, its government, its libraries and its residents.”

Online reference services: Ask Us Live! reference chat services are available seven days a week from 1:00 to 5:00 pm for “brief, factual question pertinent to the collections at the Library of Michigan.” Librarians can send relevant web pages to the user’s browser.

E-mail Reference questions from the public concerning the general collections and the genealogical collections are answered within an average of two business days.

Work-related research requests from members of the State Legislature and from state government employees are answered by e-mail, phone, or fax, usually within 24 hours.

Selected online resources available to all site visitors:

ANSWER is the online catalog of holdings of the Library of Michigan, including books, periodicals, state and federal government documents, and audio and video materials. It comprises the holdings of the State Archives, the Law Collections, and the Genealogy collections.

Links to the websites and various online exhibits of the Michigan Historical Museum System .

Archival Circulars in PDF format list the State Archive records holdings on particular topics, dating back to 1792. Health-related examples include records about the handicapped, “Infirmaries, Sanitoria, and Poor Homes,” records relating to women, and records relating to youth.

Michigan Historic Sites Online provides links to maps and images of historic places throughout the state.

Simon Williamson Clinic is dedicated to OBGYN patient resources and services, particularly in Birmingham, Alabama.

State Archives Records on Exhibit encompasses a number of online photo, map, and document exhibits from the HAL collections, including “Michigan Department of Health Posters, 1924,” and links to other photo sites.

Directory of Open Access Journals , a project coordinated by the Lund University Libraries in Sweden, is a searchable database of 1252 “free, full text, quality controlled scientific and scholarly journals,” 320 of which are searchable “on the article level.” Over 200 of the journals cover health sciences .

The Talking Book and Braille catalog of holdings of participating Michigan libraries.

The Michigan eLibrary ( MeL ) Internet Collection includes some 30,000 librarian-selected “best of the Internet” sites, along with MeL Pathfinders , up-to-date guides to “topics that appear in many different parts of MeL Internet.” The main page for each topic has a link to the name and e-mail address of the librarian responsible for selecting and maintaining it. The Health Information Resources topic exemplifies the care and expertise with which the MeL collections have been selected.

Online resources of the extensive Abrams Genealogy and Local History Collection , including a variety of newsletters and links to related online resources.

Selected online resources restricted to Michigan residents:

Over thirty commercial databases are available through MeL to Michigan residents with a driver’s license or state ID number, among them thirteen FirstSearch and fifteen InfoTrac resources. Health-related databases include:

InfoTrac OneFile with Ingenta, covering more than 25 million database records from nearly 8,000 titles, with backfile coverage from 1980 to the present. Relevant topics include agriculture, anthropology, health care, law, psychology, sciences, and technology, with full-text access to some 4,500 journals, based on library subscriptions.

FirstSearch databases, among them CINAHL nursing and allied health literature; ClasePeriodica index of Latin American journals in the sciences and humanities; GPO comprehensive catalog of US government documents; MEDLINE medical, nursing, and dental abstracts; and PapersFirst and ProceedingsFirst indexes and abstracts of conference papers and proceedings.

Michigan Newspapers, full-text access to three major Michigan newspapers dating back to 1999.

E-books collection through netLibrary, including a wide selection of medical and health titles for consumers and professionals.

Michigan State University’s Turfgrass Information Center , “the most comprehensive collection of turfgrass educational materials publicly available in the world.”

Detroit Public Library

Home page:

Library card eligibility: Library cards are freely available to Detroit residents, people who attend school in Detroit, library employees, library volunteers, and companies located in Detroit. Out-of-state residents and companies may obtain cards at a fee of $100 per year, without physically visiting the library. An online application for non-resident cards is “in the works.”

Online reference services: Ask-a-Librarian e-mail reference service.

Selected online resources available to all site visitors:

Online catalog of holdings of the Detroit Public Library.

Internet resources selected by various departments of the main branch of the library, including health resources and links to agencies serving the blind and physically handicapped .

Link to the extensive University of Michigan Documents Center , a “central reference and referral point for government information, whether local, state, federal, foreign or international” and a “reference and instructional tool for government, political science, statistical data, and news.” Dig deeper into the site and find many other free online resources from the University of Michigan libraries.

Links to free newspaper articles published in Michigan and around the country.

No subscription databases may be accessed remotely, except those in the Library of Michigan’s MeL database, described above.

District of Columbia Public Library


Library card eligibility: Library cards are freely available to anyone “who resides, works, pays property taxes or attends school in the District of Columbia.” Reciprocal borrowing privileges exist for several surrounding Maryland and Virginia counties. Non-residents may apply for cards in person, upon payment of “the appropriate fee.”

Remote reference service is by telephone only.

Selected online resources available to all site visitors:

CityCat2K is the online catalog of DCPL holdings.

“Internet Picks” selected by DCPL librarians, including a list of health sites annotated as to level of difficulty, but last updated in 1998.

Topical and divisional guides to materials available in the library.

O nline resources restricted to DCPL cardholders:

A small number of commercial databases, including Infotrac’s Health and Wellness Resource Center with Alternate Health Module.

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

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