As any follower of this blog is probably aware, here at the McAllen Public Library we strongly encourage civic engagement and following current events, as part our duties as responsible citizens. However, sometimes you need a break for your own mental health. If the constant stream of breaking political news alerts on your phone is wearing you down, never fear- your library is here! Although we may forget with the constant barrage of political news, there are other things going on in the world. Things that are fun, happy, interesting, and exciting. New discoveries are being made all the time, whether it’s the discovery of new Earth-like planets which could potentially harbor life, new studies in the cognition of those furry family members we call pets, or the development of automobile safety features that can detect when you’re driving while sleepy.
When you read news articles on these topics, you may wonder where the reporter is getting the information from. News reporters get their information straight from the source, and in the case of scientific and technological discoveries, the source is scholarly journals where the researchers publish their official findings and methods. These scholarly journals are different than popular magazines, and a comparison from the Georgetown University Library can be found here. You may think that scholarly journal articles are dry and boring, but if you can get through the details and see the overall picture- usually described in the “abstract” at the beginning of any scholarly journal article- you can see that they can actually be very exciting and interesting. In fact, this is the original article about the discovery of the seven planets mentioned above, and this is the original article about the new study mentioned above in canine cognition (basically, that dogs can be very tricky and sneaky in order to get their way). These articles are the source that all other mainstream news reporters use to “repackage” the discovery for the general public.
The process of publishing articles in these scholarly journals is long and complicated. A guide from one publisher can be found here, and top tips from editors can be found here. Some articles in these journals are published on an open-access basis, meaning that you don’t have to pay to get the article- they are available online for free to anyone. The “deceptive dog” article above is an example. Researchers often prefer this open-access model of publication because it makes their discoveries more easily accessible to the public, journalists, and other scientists. However, other journals are still published on a pay-to-view or subscription basis, and the article about the new planets is an example of this. In order to view the article, you have to subscribe to the journal or pay for that specific article.
As you can see, subscribing to these journals or paying for articles is very expensive. Most people are not going to want to do this. Luckily for you, there is another option! And guess what that option is- your local public library! Libraries subscribe to databases that include many of these scholarly journals, and make them searchable and viewable for free to anyone who visits the library or has a library card. Here at the McAllen Public Library, we have access to the TexShare portal of databases, through the Texas State Library. It is found at the top of the Research page on the library e-branch. The TexShare portal includes many resources, but scholarly journals can be found by clicking on “All EBSCO Databases” or “All Gale Databases”. One caveat to keep in mind is that the journals sometimes put access restrictions in place even for libraries, so that the full-text of new articles will sometimes not be available until after a certain amount of time, like a year. The user-interfaces of these databases can sometimes be a challenge, so if you ever need help searching them, that is what we are here for! Just stop by the library and ask.
So the next time you think you’ve had it up to here with the news and want to learn about something completely different, don’t forget about all the resources available to you through your local library!