Free Online Reference Resources for Librarians

by Amanda May, former head editor, INALJ North Dakota

Free Online Reference Resources for Librarians

amanda.mayWhen sitting at the reference desk, I try my best to direct patrons to the library’s resources, but sometimes, I find an online resource that may best fulfill their needs.  These are some of my favorites.

  • Merriam-Webster is one of the most well-known publishers of language-related reference works.  This website includes a dictionary and thesaurus as well as many other resources, such as “Quizzes & Games” and “Word of the Day.”
  • Visual Dictionary Online connects words with images.  Users can browse the 15 major themes to find various words and the corresponding image.  The different parts of the image are labeled as well.  I find this to be a great resource for English Language Learners.
  • The Encyclopedia of Earth is an online resource about the Earth, its natural environments, and their interaction with society.  Patrons can use the Topic Navigator to browse various topics that are expert-reviewed.
  • LibriVox’s objective is “to make all books in the public domain available, for free, in audio format on the internet.”  While majority of the audio books are in English, there are various titles in foreign language, such as French and Japanese.  If the library doesn’t own a specific public domain title in an audio format, this site provides a viable alternative.
  • The STATS website states that “Our goals are to correct scientific misinformation in the media and in public policy resulting from bad science, politics, or a simple lack of information or knowledge; and to act as a resource for journalists and policymakers on major scientific issues and controversies.”  This website might be a good resource for high school or college students doing reports on major issues in today’s society.


Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list (formerly I Need a Library Job) and former CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of, a crowdfunding platform focused on African patrimony, heritage and cultural projects. INALJ was founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard. Its social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ. INALJ has had over 21 Million page hits and helped many, many thousands of librarians find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in one month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this with many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro and many other publications in the past decade. She presents whenever she can, including serving on three panels at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Las Vegas; as breakout presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa; as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting; at the National Press Club in Washington DC; McGill University in Montreal, Canada; the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has been living and working in Budapest, Hungary and Western New York State. She spent years running her husband’s moving labor website, fixed and sold old houses and assisted her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food. She is preparing to re-enter the workforce and is job hunting. Her husband is now the co-editor of INALJ, a true support!  She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay.