Metaforix@Health – Free Online Resources for Public Library Users: Pennsylvania and Ohio

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, Detroit and Washington, D.C. (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.)

Either I’m feeling kindhearted this month or the Pennsylvania and Ohio sites I visited offered more than the usual complement of interesting discoveries. Most surprising to me was that the Free Library of Philadelphia charges just $15 per year for an out-of-state resident borrower’s card – a wonderful deal, considering the substantial array of remotely available databases.

Two health links from the State Library of Pennsylvania site that are well worth investigating are PinnacleHealth, “a charitable organization committed to improving the health and quality of life for the people of Central Pennsylvania,” and Public Health InfoLinks, an extraordinary product of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. And a pair of gems from the Free Library of Philadelphia: the librarian-created Research and Collections section of the site, a beautifully designed work-in-progress that agglomerates physical, web, and remote database resources, and Philly Health Info, an excellent example of a regional health site.

I’m almost tempted to move west to take full advantage of OhioLINK, the union catalog of the State Library and a consortium of college and university libraries. Its visually appeal and user-friendly design are complemented by a number of unusual features, including video tutorials that are well worth emulating. The State Library of Ohio also introduced me to State and Local Government On the Net, a frequently updated set of links to “official state, county, and city government websites” not only throughout Ohio, but throughout the nation.

Finally, Cleveland Public’s Links Library is a highly diverse, engaging, searchable and browsable collection of links to mostly free sites on a wide variety of topics.

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 PAHealth @ The column will arrive as an e-mail attachment in .mht format, viewable in Internet Explorer. If you would also like the Onfolio versions of previous columns in this series, please request them in the body of your message.

Commonwealth Libraries of Pennsylvania

Home page :

Mission : “ The Office of Commonwealth Libraries, within the Pennsylvania Department of Education, operates a major research library [{The State Library of Pennsylvania] and leads the development of the state’s public, school, academic and special libraries to meet the information, education and enrichment needs of its residents..

Online reference services: E-mail reference services, with no specified turnaround time.

Selected online resources available to all site visitors:

The Pilot Catalog is a union catalog of the holdings of the Keystone Library Network, including the Commonwealth Libraries and the libraries of the fourteen members of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The various library holdings may be searched individually or collectively.

The Access Pennsylvania Database is a web-based bibliographic union catalog and resource sharing guide” to the holdings of over 2,700 school, public, academic, and special libraries in Pennsylvania, searchable by region and by type of library.

Several Digital Library Collections focus on aspects of state history.

The State Library has produced a list of “Recommended Websites” in a variety of subject areas, encompassing both websites and online resources available through the State Library. Some of the publicy accessible health links are:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Health and Safety topics site.

Free Medical Journals on the Web, including over 1300 journals searchable by specialty, title, and language. Availability ranges from one month to two years after publication.

The library services of PinnacleHealth, “a charitable organization committed to improving the health and quality of life for the people of Central Pennsylvania.” Pinnacle resources include the SydneyPLUS online catalog of holdings, encompassing books, bound journals, and online journals.

Public Health InfoLinks, an extraordinarily comprehensive collection of freely accessible and password protected links.

Selected online resources restricted to state employees and Keystone Library Network patrons:

UBorrow a version of the Pilot Catalog with greater functionality that allows users to reserve books and extend loan periods.

ProQuest health databases, including

CINAHL,a nursing and allied health database encompassing over 1,200 publications, more than 270 of them in full-text formats.

Health and Medical Complete, covering more than 380 leading health journals, including many full-text articles.

MEDLINE with full text, “combining MEDLINE indexing with full text and full image articles for more than 400 key titles.”

Pharmaceutical News Index, an index of the top fifteen industry newsletters on “pharmacological news, research, and regulatory information.”

Proquest Psychology Journals, a fully searchable index of over 400 psychology and related journals.

Selected online resources restricted to Pennsylvania public library cardholders:

POWER (Pennsylvania Online World of Electronic Resources) databases, including

Clinical Pharmacology , encompassing “up-to-date, concise and clinically-relevant drug monographs for all U.S. prescription drugs” and related products.

Health Source: Consumer Edition , featuring “searchable full text for over 190 journals including Consumer Reports on Health and Men’s Health, as well as abstracts and indexing for over 205 general health, nutrition and professional health care publications.”

Health Source: Nursing and Academic Edition , a searchable database of over 500 full-text scholarly health and medical journals.

Free Library of Philadelphia

Home page:

Library card eligibility : Library cards are freely available to “anyone who lives, works, pays taxes, or goes to school in the City of Philadelphia.” Cards are also free for people over 65 add zens and holders of valid “Access PA” library cards.

Cards for out-of-state residents cost $15.00. Applications are available online and can be returned by fax or mail.

Online reference services : Brief reference questions are answered by e-mail with a target turnaround time of one to two days.

Selected online resources available to all site visitors:

FLP, the searchable catalog of holdings of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Three searchable digital image collections, including the U. S. Centennial Exhibition, the Central Library’s 75th Anniversary Collection, and Historical Images of Philadelphia.

The Research and Collections section of the site allows visitors to access various subject departments of the library. Each department’s page contains links to FAQs drawn from questions frequently asked by patrons; “FLP Websites” an extensive annotated list of selected by library staff for their “content, ease-of-use and quality;” “Resource Guides” that reflect the unique character of each department; and “Electronic Resources” (many of which are restricted to cardholders.)

Workplace, the library’s “job and career information center for adults,” containing an extensive annotated list of freely available websites.

Philly Health Info, “the #1 stop for regional health resources, a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.”

Selected online resources restricted to FLP cardholders :

All remotely accessible POWER resources

Health and Wellness Resource Center , encompassing consumer and professional publications on health and fitness.

InfoTrac OneFile, encompassing over 5,000 full-text magazines and journals and five newspaper indexes, from 1980 to the present.

Social Sciences Full Text, encompassing over 600 periodicals, many of which contain health-related articles

State Library of Ohio

Homepage :

User eligibility: The library’s primary mission is to provide information services to state government agencies and employees and to promote library services throughout the state. Government employees as well as state residents may register as borrowers online; the latter are required to pick up their library cards in person.

Online reference services: KnowItNow 24×7 is a live chat reference service available to state residents by logging in with an Ohio ZIP code. The service downloads a “co-browser” feature that allows the librarian to direct the user to appropriate sites by navigating to them in real time. The user can also receive an e-mailed transcript of the chat.

Selected online resources available to all site visitors:

OhioLINK, a union catalog of holdings of the State Library and a consortium of college and university libraries within Ohio, including holdings in all media. OhioLINK offers an excellent set of video tutorials (aimed at authorized borrowers) covering various types of searches, including one on how to search by Medical Subject Heading.

OhioLINK Digital Media Center, comprising a growing library of audio and video collections, such as the Borror Library of over 10,000 downloadable animal sounds and the ViewPoints Project collection of foreign language video clips. Most of the current collections are freely accessible.

A set of directories and links to public, academic, government agency, medical, and other special libraries in Ohio. Some of the linked sites have a wealth of freely accessible information.

State and Local Government On the Net, a directory of links to “official state, county, and city government websites” in Ohio. The Ohio page is part of a site that provides similar links for every state in the Union, complete with dates of most recent updates and links to a variety of associations and organizations related to state and municipal government. See the FAQ page for more information.

Links to Ohio information, including legal information, forms, and the Ohio Department of Health Information Warehouse, which allows the user to access or generate statistical reports on various health indicators and vital statistics in a variety of tabular and graphical formats.

Selected online resource restricted to State Library and OhioLink cardholders:

OhioLINK’s restricted access services, an unusually flexible and well-designed union catalog and set of databases, promote a variety of customized search options and allow authorized users to set up personalized links, download materials, and arrange for interlibrary loans. See the Medicine and Health page for an example OhioLINK’s comprehensive, user-friendly format.

Columbus Metropolitan Library


Library card eligibility: Library cards are freely available to Ohio residents. Corporate cards for Ohio businesses and organizations are free, with certain restrictions.

Online reference services: KnowItNow 24×7 live chat reference service, as described above, along with e-mail reference services that promise a target turnaround time of 24 hours.

Selected online resources available to all site visitors:

A searchable catalog of library holdings

CML Databases, a set of mostly Ohio-related databases developed and maintained by library staff, such as the Columbus News Index, comprising abstracts of selected news articles and obituaries for the years 1934 to 1997.

Webfinders, an extensive, annotated list of librarian-selected websites on a wide variety of subjects. Most sites are freely available. Health sites include the NetWellness consumer health website, a joint project of the University of Cincinnati, Case Western Reserve University, and Ohio State University. The site’s “Ask an Expert” feature allows consumers to request authoritative answers from a panel of some 300 health professionals.

Selected online resources restricted to CML cardholders:

AccessScience @ McGraw Hill, the electronic version of the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology.

Associations Unlimited, a searchable database of information on approximately 440,000 international, national, regional, state, and local nonprofit organizations

Ethnic Newswatch, “a full-text collection of the newspapers, magazines, and journals of the ethnic, minority, and native presses,” with articles in English and Spanish.

Health and Wellness Resource Center, a consumer health database comprising searchable data from medical encyclopedias and dictionaries, periodical articles, and pamphlets.

Cleveland Public Library

Homepage: (English) (Spanish)

Library card eligibility: Library cards are freely available to permanent residents of Ohio, temporary residents who expect to remain for six weeks or more, and businesses and organizations located in Cuyahoga County.

Online reference services : KnowItNow 24×7 live chat reference service, as described above

Selected online resources available to all site visitors:

The CLEVNET Catalog, the searchable union catalog of holdings of the Cleveland Public Library and the other 30 Northern Ohio members of the CLEVNET library consortium. Also available in Spanish.

Links Library, a searchable and browsable collection of annotated links on a wide variety of topics, most of which are freely accessible. Health links include

AEGIS (AIDS Education Global Information System), “the largest HIV/AIDS website in the world,” including searchable information from newspapers, AID-focused journals, books, and other publications.

Cancer Advisors, offering “expert and unbiased clinical trial recommendations” from board-certified clinical oncologists

Public Health Image Library, a Centers of Disease Control and Prevention site offering a searchable collection of public-domain images intended for use in “reference, teaching, presentation, and public health messages”

The Exhibit Hall, “a tour of special collections at the Cleveland Public Library,” from Architecture to Visual Arts.

Selected online resources restricted to CPL cardholders:

An extensive library of databases available by remote access to CPL and CLEVNET cardholders, including

AccessUN , a searchable database of UN documents concerning “p eace and security, world hunger, human rights, economic development, the environment, and atomic energy”

Business Dateline , full­-text articles from more than 530 newspapers, city business magazines, and wire services, covering the latest trends in industry, health, environmental issues, and education

MDX Health Digest , covering over 200 “newsletters, general interest magazines, medical journals, medical school and hospital publications, and bulletins in the areas of consumer health and medicine” from 1980 to the present.

Polling the Nations, a searchable “compilation of more than 14,000 surveys conducted by more than 700 polling organizations in the United States and more than 80 other countries from 1986 to the present”

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

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