Photo by Margaret Fox
Author of the surprise hit This Book Is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All, Marilyn Johnson knows her stuff when it comes to digging deep and finding things on the Web. Here, the Briarcliff Manor writer shares her five favorite research websites.
1) Archives.gov (archives.gov)
This National Archives and Records Administration site has more than nine billion paper records, more than 20 million photographs, and more than seven million maps and charts. Sometimes Johnson prefers it to the real thing. “Take the faded Declaration of Independence, displayed in the National Archives under low light,” she says. “In person, it’s impossible to read. Online, you get a zoomable, high-resolution photo, a transcript, and an interactive page that lets you add your own name to the Declaration.”
2) Ask New York Public Library (NYPL) (nypl.org/ask-nypl)
Johnson has bookmarked this site’s 24/7 chat service. “The wonderful librarians at NYPL provide the service during the day,” she says, “and librarians across the country cover for them while they sleep.”
3) MedlinePlus (nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/)
Johnson calls this site “a marvel, a trustworthy source from the National Library of Medicine.”
4) Ask MetaFilter (Ask MeFi) (ask.metafilter.com/)
“I believe in crowd-sourcing,” says Johnson, which is why she’s so enamored of this searchable weblog community, which was founded in 1999. “Ask your friends on any social network for suggestions on what to do with a gift of duck fat,” she says, “and you will get dozens of great answers.” Should you want to pose your own question, it costs five dollars to register, but “there’s no charge to tap the wisdom already gathered on everything from getting rid of ants to finding the perfect gift for an old-school Dungeons & Dragons nerd.”
5) Westchester County Public Libraries (westchesterlibraries.org)
“My Westchester library card is an ‘open sesame’ to all sorts of treasure,” says Johnson, who uses this site to search the system’s catalog, browse online resources for the Wall Street Journal, and roam the 38 individual library sites. A favorite? Greenburgh’s list of Internet resources
(greenburghlibrary.org/research.php). It once sent her to LyricWiki for the elusive answer to a burning question about the lyrics of a Hendrix tune.