Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I use a Birmingham Public Library database?

Birmingham Public librarians have chosen over 100 databases covering topics from Art to Zoology. Our databases run the gamut from the classic Encyclopedia Britannica to the WPA Index to Alabama Biography and everything in between. We even have some databases in Spanish.

Students from grade school to college, as well as patrons just surfing for information, can find a database to cover their needs or interests. These databases are authoritative sources written and edited by experts in their respective fields. All these databases are accessible at the Central location or your local branch. Many of these resources can also be accessed from offsite.

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What's the difference between library databases and Google?

Search engines such as Google have certainly made searching the Internet easy, but not all information on the web is accurate or current. And it's not always clear where information on the web originated, or if the information is objective and unbiased. Birmingham Public Library databases have been reviewed and edited by experts in the field. These databases can be relied upon as authoritative sources.

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How do I know which database to use?

If you are researching a particular subject such as Biography or Science, choose the appropriate broad subject heading from the list in the left-hand column. You can then use the detailed descriptions of the databases to help you decide which one to use. If you are unsure which heading to use, choose General Reference. This will provide you with encyclopedias and all-purpose magazine indexes.

If you are looking for articles in a specific newspaper, magazine, or journal, use the BPL Electronic Journals listing to find out which databases provide full-text coverage.

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What type of information can I find on the databases?

The databases of Birmingham Public Library contain information on every imaginable topic. Our databases can provide full text articles from newspapers and magazines, wiring diagrams for automobile repair, preparation for the GRE exam, critical analysis of Victorian literature, even legal forms.

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How do I access BPL databases?

Click on the Databases link at the top our homepage ( or go directly to BPL databases are available in all branches of Birmingham Public Library. Most databases are also accessible remotely via our website,

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How do I access BPL databases away from the Library?

Visit our website,, click on the Databases link at the top of the page.

Click on the Available From Home or Office link on the database page.

Click on the database title and, when prompted, enter your name and library card number (this is located under the back bar code). Click the 'submit' button to be forwarded to your selected database.

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What is full-text? What is a citation?

Full-text means that the text of the article or other source is included in the database.It contains the same text you would find if you were reading a copy of the magazine, newspaper, or reference book.

A citation provides you with the information you need to find the article in a magazine, reference book, or newspaper. It is similar to what you would include in the "works cited" page of your research paper.

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Why isn't everything available in full-text?

Older articles are less likely to be available in full-text due to the high cost of digitization. Questions of copyright and licensing may also prevent full-text availability.

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How can I tell if a newspaper, magazine, or journal is available in full text in the databases?

The library has created a list of Electronic Journals that shows which magazines and newspapers are available in full text. You can search for the title by typing its name into the search box or you can browse for magazines by title. BPL Electronic Journals tells you which databases have the full-text magazine and the years of coverage.

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How do I print?

Most databases have a printer icon print or print function that formats your document for printing. Once the document is formatted, you can print using your Internet browser. Either click the printer icon on your browser, or you can click File on the Menu Bar, then select Print. It is a good idea to do a Print Preview (click File -- select Print Preview) before you print the text so you can see the number of pages and make sure you print exactly what you want.

EBSCO databases such as MasterFile Premier allow you to change the default format settings after you click on the printer icon. print For more information on printing from EBSCO databases, click here.

If you are printing PDF files, you must use the printer icon in Adobe Acrobat.

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Can I e-mail articles to myself?

Yes, most of the databases include an e-mail icon email you can use to e-mail the article to yourself. Simply click on the icon that says e-mail and follow the instructions.

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How do I cite the articles in my research paper?

Most databases provide a link for "how to cite" articles in the database. If it's not included on the page with your article, consult the help section.

EBSCO databases such as Academic Search Premier have a citation icon cite above the article. Once you click the icon, you will be given the article citation in a variety of documentation styles (APA, MLA, etc.).

Gale databases such as Literature Resource Center provide the MLA citation at the bottom of the article. If you need a citation in APA format, click on the "Citation Tools" link in the red box in the right-hand column.

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What's the difference between HTML Full Text and PDF Full Text?

HTML Full Text has been manually entered by the provider of the database.All the information from the original document is included, but the layout is different. If you see a reference to HTML Full Text with Graphics this means that the images from the original document have been included in the body of the text.

PDF Full Text is a scanned image of the original document. The page layout, page numbers, graphs, charts, images, etc. all appear exactly as they do in the original.

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How do I save the article?

If you don't want to print or e-mail the article, you have the option to save it.Most databases have a save command or icon save which allows you to save the document.

In EBSCO databases such as Newspaper Source, click on the floppy disk icon save. EBSCO gives you the option to change the default settings before you save the article.

In Gale databases such as General Reference Center Gold, click on the "Download" link in the red box in the right-hand column.

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Databases - Can't get in from home?

Here are the most common reasons the database cannot be accessed.

  • Vendor technical problems

    Database vendor servers occasionally go down for short periods. In such cases, wait several minutes before attempting access again. Scheduled downtimes (i.e. for maintenance) are typically noted in database descriptions.

  • Too many users at once

    Some BPL databases have limits on simultaneous users. In such cases you'll see an error page indicating the limitation. Your delay in access should be short-lived -- wait a few minutes and try again.

  • Expired library card

    Remote access requires a valid JCLC library card. Library cards are valid for one year and must be renewed annually. If you cannot access the databases using your library card, contact the library to find out if your card has expired.

  • Not a Birmingham resident

    Some BPL databases are limited to in-library use or remote access to residents of Birmingham, AL. The licensing restrictions of some vendors prevent us from offering "remote access" to non-residents.

  • None of the above

    If your problems persist, please Ask a Librarian

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Page Last Modified: 1/21/2014 1:10 PM