Compare Databases and Library Catalogs

Library Databases

What is a database?

  • Library databases allow you to efficiently search for published information such as magazine, journal, and newspaper articles. Library databases can be general (all disciplines) or subject-specific (e.g. a psychology database).

Why use a database?

  • Reliable –Many articles in library databases have gone through peer review, which means that other experts have verified the article’s evidence and arguments. Library databases also include all the information you need to evaluate a source for credibility (such as author name, publication details, and a summary).
  • Relevant – Library databases allow you to customize your search to get the most relevant results. You can search using keywords, subject-specific terminology, subject headings, and descriptors. You can also search by author, title, and limit your results using various criteria (date, source type, etc.).
  • Accessible –Students at the University of Illinois can access databases for free 24/7 through the library website. Databases often provide access to the full text of an article so you do not need to go to the library to retrieve it in person. If you are unable to find the full text of an article, or if you are being asked to pay to get access, you can use the Ask-A-Librarian chat to get help.

What databases does the library recommend for getting started?

  • Academic Search Ultimate – Great general database to find articles on most topics.
  • Find Articles Guide – Need a more focused database? Find a list of the Undergraduate Library’s top-recommended subject-specific databases here.

Library Catalogs

What is a library catalog?

  • A library catalog allows you to search for items owned by a specific library. Items you may find in a catalog include books, movies, journals, magazines, music scores, government documents, and more.

Why use a library catalog?

  • Use a library catalog to find items the library owns, where they are located, and if they are available to check out.

What library catalogs does the Undergraduate Library recommend for getting started?

Local Library Catalogs

  • Library Catalog – Find and request materials owned by the library. Search by author, title, subject heading, keywords, or call number.
  • Course Reserves – Find materials on reserve for your classes.

Off-Campus Library Catalogs

  • I-Share – Find and request items in the joint catalog shared by The Library and 80+ other academic libraries in the state of Illinois.
  • WorldCat – Search, find, and order books, or find journals and other library materials worldwide.
  • CU Catalog – Find materials (e.g. popular fiction and audiobooks) owned by Champaign Public Library and Urbana Free Library.