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November 24, 2014

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Explore the World’s Cultures and Creatures with National Geographic | Digital Resources

SLJ1304 DigRes NationalGeo Explore the World’s Cultures and Creatures with National Geographic | Digital ResourcesNational Geographic: People, Animals, and the World
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Grade Level: Grades 6 and up

“National Geographic: People, Animals, and the World” is part of the National Geographic Virtual Library. The database allows access to full-text books on travel, science and technology, history, the environment, animals, photography, and peoples and cultures. Also included are full-text articles from National Geographic Traveler magazine from 2010 to the present, 325 videos, 655 full color maps and atlases, and 600 downloadable images.

Cost National Geographic Virtual Library (which includes National Geographic Magazine Archive 1888-1994; 1995-Current; and People, Animals, and the World) is based on the FTE of the academic institution or the size of the population a public library serves. Annual pricing starts at $1,264 for public libraries and $1,584 for academic libraries (a 20 per cent discount for both).

Overview The full-text books and articles and the media mentioned above are divided here into six umbrella topics: Animals, Environment, History, People and Cultures, Science and Technology, and Travel.

How it Works Selecting one of the umbrella topics directs the user to a new page displaying the following content types: images, books, feature articles, videos, and maps. A search box is on the left of the screen, and entering a search term creates a shorter list of content types, with the number of hits in each type displayed. The default selection for sorting the results is by relevance, but a drop-down menu on the right of the screen allows users to list results by date (newest or oldest first) and by document title.

Beneath the list of content types is another search box for narrowing the original search. There is also a list of recommended subjects for cross reference and for further focusing the work on a specific content type. For example, a search in the animals category for “rats” produces one featured image, seven books, 141 feature articles, and two videos.

Electing to search through the hits for books creates a list of over two dozen overlapping subjects. Choosing to look at the videos results in a list of only seven additional subjects that are relevant. The search does not allow for variations, so a search for “rat” creates its own set of hits, including some new ones.

A drop-down menu to the top right of the screen allows switching between topics, but does not save the search; so users who move from “Animals” to “People and Culture,” for example, would need to re-enter their query. Again, there is some overlap of results.

Upon choosing a featured article, the full text appears as the main feature of the page, with a sidebar to the right displaying a search box, a citation for the article in view, and related subjects. Running along the bottom of the screen are thumbnails representing some of the other feature articles that were part of the search. The article as it appears on the screen defaults to 14 per cent, but it can be expanded to full screen, which improves readability. While in full-screen mode, researchers can only scroll through the article a page at a time, using arrows at the top of the screen. There is more flexibility when using the reduced-size screen, however, which allows navigation within the article by entering page numbers.

It should be noted that the search box is designed to search the entire issue in which the article appeared, not just the article itself. Searching a book is similar, but with a key distinction: use of the search box finds the actual references within the text of the book. The page numbers are clickable and lead to the correct page with the search term highlighted.

Special Features Setting up a personal account allows users to create tags and save documents. Citation tools include print and email commands, a citation generator, and bookmarks.

Videos include closed captioning; it is also possible to listen to an audio version of the information that is printed beneath the video. The text is highlighted as the audio plays. Users can control the speed of the highlighting, so that it features individual words or complete sentences, or to turn this extra off altogether. The audio files can also be downloaded.

Unfortunately, backtracking is not easy in this resource. A “Back to Search Results” feature is available when a document is first selected, but as soon as the researcher begins to move within or away from the document—following a link to a suggested, relevant topic, for example—the feature disappears and the only way to return to the original list of results is to use the browser’s back arrows or to simply return to the homepage and re-enter the search. When users select an article from the feature articles results list, they must reenter their search term in the search box (unless they plan to read the article from start to finish). Because this creates a search through the entire issue, it generates a new set of results (including the original article), which creates an extra step to work through. Finally, the results can be slow to load in the sidebars.

Verdict The name “National Geographic” is a respected and trusted brand for armchair travelers and professional researchers alike, and this database should prove popular with patrons. Because it draws from the parent magazine and from publications for an adult readership, it is best for high school and public libraries, though features such as the videos, images, and maps could prove attractive to younger users.

Kara Schaff Dean is the youth services librarian at Walpole Public Library, MA

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