On-line Databases - Treasure Troves of Information

My Favorite Web Sites - Winchester Star - 4/25/02
 by Martin Zombeck

This is a bi-weekly column providing an annotated list of Web sites that may be of interest to the community. Each column will list sites that belong to a particular category: search engines, art, online newspapers and magazines, health and medicine, history, business and economics, etc. or sites relevant to a particular season, for example, skiing or gardening. Most sites will be non-commercial. To make it easier to access the sites, each bi-weekly column will be posted on the Town of Winchester's Web site so that the sites can be accessed and bookmarked without having to be typed. Previous columns will be archived at the Winchester site, also.

"All of the books in the world contain no more information than is broadcast as video in a single large American city in a single year. Not all bits have equal value."
- Carl Sagan

This article is an attempt to help the information surfer find the valuable bits by listing several Web databases or lists of links to databases. The selection of sites is limited and meant to illustrate the wealth of information available on the Web.

From the Webopedia (www.webopedia.com): "A database is a collection of information organized in such a way that a computer program can quickly select desired pieces of data. You can think of a database as an electronic filing system." A telephone directory is a good paper analog of a database. It's a collection of individual names, telephone numbers, and addresses organized alphabetically by last name that permits easy searching; only by last name, however. Digitize the directory and you can search by address, name, or telephone number (so-called reverse lookup). Any one of several digitized directories on the Web will provide you with the means to find anyone in the United States with a listed telephone number. The sites below provide information at no cost except for LEXIS-NEXIS. Most of the sites listed below are US government sites. They are treasure troves of information. You paid for them. Use them.

One of the best on-line telephone directories. Search by name or telephone number. Find a person, business, or product anywhere in the United States.

US Patent and Trademark Office
Full-text and full-page image patent databases. Search by keywords. Patents issued between 1790 and 1976 are searchable only by patent number and current US classifications.

Government Printing Office
Search the Budget of the US, Congressional Bills, Congressional Directory, Congressional Reports, and many more databases. Select the Congressional Directory database and enter the keyword "Massachusetts" and you will obtain the Directory entries for our Senators and Representatives.

Catalog of US Government Publications
The Catalog is a search and retrieval service that provides bibliographic records of U.S. Government information. Coverage begins with January 1994 and new records are added daily. Search is by keyword.

US Postal Service Zip Codes
Look up zip code for any address.

National Library of Medicine - Health Information
Find answers to your health questions; references and abstracts from 4300 biomedical journals; provides information for patients about clinical research studies; directory of health organizations; catalog of books, journals, and audiovisuals in the NLM collections; digital archive of life sciences journal literature,; databases on toxicology, environmental health, and hazardous chemicals, and more.

NIST - Scientific Databases
The National Institute of Science and Technology was formerly the National Bureau of Standards. This site contains lists of standard reference databases in physics, chemistry, materials, and biotechnology. Many of the databases are accessible on-line at no cost.

National Center for Biotechnology Information
"Established in 1988 as a national resource for molecular biology information, NCBI creates public databases, conducts research in computational biology, develops software tools for analyzing genome data, and disseminates biomedical information - all for the better understanding of molecular processes affecting human health and disease."

Information Bridge
" The Information Bridge provides an open source to full-text and bibliographic records of the Department of Energy (DOE) research and development reports in physics, chemistry, materials, biology, environmental sciences, energy technologies, engineering, computer and information science, renewable energy, and other topics.

The gateway to statistics from over 100 U.S. Federal agencies.

"LEXIS-NEXIS is an online news, business and legal information service. It includes full-text access to over 3,700 U.S. and international newspapers, newswires, trade and industry publications, as well as to financial information and television and radio broadcast transcripts." There is a substantial subscriber fee associated with LEXIS-NEXIS.

Winchester Library's Link to Databases
Click on "From Home" and then "InfoTrac". InfoTrac is a collection of databases available to holders of a Minuteman Library Network card. InfoTrac provides access to millions of articles from scholarly and popular periodicals.

I could go on and on and on.

A great source of Web addresses for information provided by the US government is the book, "U.S. Government on the Web, Getting the Information You Need", Peter Hernon, John A. Shuler, and Robert E. Dugan, Libraries Unlimited, Inc., 1999. Hundreds of Web sites are listed.

Previous columns with live links can be found at www.winchestermass.org/wstar

When he is not updating the Town of Winchester Web site (www.winchestermass.org), Martin Zombeck can be found at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where he is a physicist. E-mail: mvz@alum.mit.edu.