Monday, December 9, 2019

Popular Databases and How to Find Them

The State Library has been working hard to get many state publications and legislative history materials digitized and available online. In addition to these collections, we have access to several online databases that provide state employees and other patrons with access to academic journals, magazines, and newspapers. All you need is a State Library card!

The State Library provides access to legal and legislative databases and news sources like MassTrac/Instatrac, Westlaw, and the State House News Service. However, these online resources can only be used in the State Library’s Reading Room. In contrast, the State Library also provides access to several other databases not necessarily related to legislative history and research courtesy of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. These databases include JSTOR, BioMedCentral, PubMed, and several Gale academic databases that focus on subject-specific content. Further, patrons can access these databases remotely, either at home, in their office, or elsewhere outside of the State Library, using their State Library card.

You can access these databases here.

But how can you check and see what those databases have access to? If you are interested in journals and journal articles, you can search for a specific title without clicking into each individual database. Simply navigate to the first search bar and “Search by Title or Identifier”:

You can select search parameters such as “Title begins with” or “Title equals” and then enter the name of the journal you are interested in. If the journal is included in any of the databases, it will be listed as a result along with date range information and a link to the database that provides access.

You may notice that the date range of content available may not be completely up-to-date. This is because journal publishers often negotiate agreements with database companies about what content they can provide access to, as publishers often sell their own subscriptions to current journals and other materials. Because of these agreements, the database may only be able to provide articles published after a specified time period. This delayed access is referred to as an “embargo” or “moving wall.” If a journal is impacted by an embargo, this information should be listed on the journal’s page on the database.

This journal on JSTOR has a 3-year “moving wall”
embargo. In addition to this journal-specific
information, JSTOR helpfully provides more information
about different types of publisher embargoes.

If you are unsure what the specific journal title might be or would like to browse all journals available, you can do so alphabetically or by subject on the main database webpage:

The journal you are interested in may not be located in any of the databases we have access to – but don’t worry! If that is the case, you can always request a journal article via our ILL service.

If you are not interested in a specific journal or magazine but want to explore individual articles or topics, you can also select a general database at the bottom of the page:

These links will bring you to the database’s general page, where you can perform basic or advanced searches regarding whatever you are looking for. Some of the databases are focused on a particular topic, such as Gale OneFile: Criminal Justice or PubMed Central, which is a medical database. Other databases may include just one type of online resource, such as the Boston Globe, the Encyclopedia Britannica, or New York State newspapers. The Directory of Open Access Journals is the only database listed here that does not require your State Library card, as all of its content is “open access” and therefore publicly available.

The homepage for Gale’s Academic Onefile database.

You may notice some date range restrictions similar to embargoes for some of these databases. For example, ProQuest only provides access to the Boston Globe from 1980 to present. If you are interested in articles earlier than 1980, you may want to check to see if your public library, university, or college provides their own access the Boston Globe. Public libraries and schools often have their own subscriptions to different databases and online resources and will be happy to share their services with you.

If you have any questions about the State Library’s databases or how to use them, feel free to contact the Reference Department at 617-727-2590 or email us at

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff