It’s Sunday night and your research paper on Hadrian’s Villa ain’t gonna write itself. You need fast, easy-to-digest, and reliable reference information, but the library is closed and you’ve already mined Wikipedia and Google for all they’re worth.
What if you could use your computer to search inside every book inside your local library? Then, once you’d found the information you wanted, download the article for your ereader, listen to it as an MP3, or email it to a friend, all without leaving home?
That’s exactly what you can do with the nonfiction reference ebooks available in the Kansas City Public Library’s newest database.
The Gale Virtual Reference Library  consists of more than 200 nonfiction ebooks in the humanities. Search them instantly for handy articles that you can save, print, and download to an ereader such as a Nook or a Kindle or an MP3 player such as an iPod.
It’s 100 percent free, and you can access it from home with your Kansas City Public Library Card and PIN.
Let’s take that Roman history example.
A basic search for “Hadrian’s Wall” in GVRL yields 20 results from reference books including as Architecture of Italy (Reference Guides to National Architecture), World History Encyclopedia, New Catholic Encyclopedia, Storytelling: An Encyclopedia of Mythology and Folklore, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Homes through World History, Art and Architecture of the World’s Religions, and more.
With each of these articles, you can do things like:
- Easily find every mention of the search term within each work.
- Read the entire text of every article.
- Bookmark specific pages from each book, save them forever, and send links to your friends (great for those group research assignments!).
- Email articles.
- Listen to an audio version of any article – you can even download it as an MP3!
- Download PDF versions of articles to use on your ereader. (Hint, if you have a Kindle, e-mail the articles to your “@kindle.com” or “@free.kindle.com” address.)
- Get fast MLA or APA citations for every article for your bibliography.
Watch this video tutorial  for a more in-depth tour.
The Library’s collection of ebooks in the Gale Virtual Reference Library was purchased with funding from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
About the Author
Jason Harper  is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.