RUSA’s Emerging Technologies Section selects annual list of Best Free Reference Websites

BOSTON—The  annual Best Free Reference Websites list was announced at the Reference and User Services Association’s (RUSA) Book and Media Awards Ceremony at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting in Boston on Sunday.

The list made its first debut in the Fall 2015 issue of Reference and User Services Quarterly (RUSQ), RUSA’s research journal. Each site is selected based on, but not limited to: quality, depth, usability, usefulness of content and authority of producer.  Succinct and insightful annotations were written by the selection committee and reflect all subject areas useful for ready reference and value in most libraries.

The list includes:

Open States: Discover Politics in Your State

Open States allows users the opportunity to find information on politics happening in each state. The user can search by their address or browse by state. State political information includes the demographics and information on legislators, current and past bills, and committees. Searching for upcoming legislation and tracking bill progress is made easy with the bills page providing filters that can be applied by the user to narrow their results. On the legislator page, the user can find information on the legislator’s committee memberships, bills they sponsored, recent votes and contact information. Whether you are a voter or student looking for research, this website is a must for researching politics in your state. The website works with all widely used browsers.

Author/Publisher: Sunlight Foundation

Date reviewed: March 5, 2015

Crime Statistics

The FBI Website gives access to Uniform Crime Reports of interest to citizens. The site claims that the Crime in the U.S. publication “is the most comprehensive analysis of violent crime and property crime in the nation.” The report also includes arrest and clearance data. Another useful publication is Hate Crime Statistics which includes information on the number of incidents, offenses, victims and offenders. The publication of Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted provides data for officers assaulted or feloniously/accidentally killed in the line of duty. Finally, there’s the National Incident-Based Reporting System which includes information from state law enforcement agencies. Information includes aspects such as age, race, sex, relationship, location, time of day, type of weapons used and more. This publication also has sections on statistics for schools and colleges, measurement of white collar crime, the structure of family violence and more information on victims and offenders.

Author/Publisher: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Date Reviewed: March 16, 2015

Travelers’ Health

The CDC’s Travelers’ Health website provides information and health recommendations for US residents who are planning to travel abroad. The site helps travelers understand the risks involved with traveling to certain parts of the world. Visitors start by selecting the country they want to travel to, as well as select extra options about their health or who they’re traveling with (traveling with children, etc.), and next receive a customized report containing things they need to know. The traveler is first briefed about any health warnings that may be issued for that country (whether serious or not). Further information includes diseases travelers should be most concerned about and what types of precautions (vaccinations, sanitation recommendations, etc.) need to be taken either before or during their travel. There are also educational sections on how to keep safe while in the country (eating and drinking safety tips, germs, medical care, transportation, personal security, etc.). There’s even a Packing List to recommend what to bring on your trip. The CDC site has a great deal of useful information for travelers.

Author/Publisher: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Date Reviewed: March 16, 2015

Famous Trials, UMKC School of Law

“The Web’s largest and most visited collection of materials relating to famous trials, from Socrates to Clinton. The site includes original essays, images, primary documents, maps, transcript excerpts, chronologies, video clips, court decisions, and other materials to aid readers in understanding the significance of historic trials.”

While suitable for a general audience, this site is particularly useful for high-school and college-age history or criminal justice students. The look of the website is dated, but there is an abundance of information, including primary source documents and extensive bibliographies and links, that more than make up for the site’s appearance. The site is revised frequently with additional trials added, the most recent of which is the George Zimmerman trial.

Author/Publisher: Douglas Linder, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law

Date reviewed: March 16, 2015

Country Statistics

The world’s leading advocate for children’s rights and health allows access to a wealth of statistical information on these topics. Visitor’s start by selecting the country they’re interested in and get statistics on such topics as child mortality rates, nutrition, health, education, demographics, protection, disparities and much more. The main statistics page also gives access to UNICEF’s flagship publication called The State of the World’s Children. Each year’s report focuses on a key issue affecting children around the world (children with disabilities, child rights, etc.). Anyone needing information or statistics on the state of children internationally will find useful information on UNICEF’s Website.

Author/Publisher: UNICEF

Date Reviewed: March 16, 2015

In Motion: The African-American Migration

“The website is organized around thirteen defining migrations that have formed and transformed African America and the nation. Each migration is presented through five units: a narrative, about 100 illustrations with captions and bibliographical information, from twenty to forty research resources consisting of essays, books, book chapters, articles, and manuscripts, maps, and lesson plans.” There is extensive material covering all migrations of African-Americans from the initial transatlantic slave trade through the return south migration, along with African immigration. All in-text cited articles appear to offer full-text accessibility. The site can be viewed in non-flash version and is fully searchable.

Author/Publisher: New York Public Library, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Date Reviewed: March 16, 2015

360 Degrees of Financial Literacy

“360 Degrees of Financial literacy is a national volunteer effort of the nation’s Certified Public Accountants to help Americans understand their personal finances and develop money management skills. It focuses on financial education as a lifelong endeavor-from children learning about the value of money to adults reaching a secure retirement.” Advice is available according to your choice of individual life stages or specific financial topics. Questions may be posted to the Money Doctor and are answered by volunteer CPAs. The option is also offered to create individual accounts which will display a personalized dashboard of tips and targeted financial information.

Author/Publisher: American Institute of Certified Public Accountants

Date Reviewed: March 16, 2015

Video ETA

VideoETA allows users to find “DVD and Blu-ray release dates for upcoming movies.” VideETA posts release dates once the studio has given its Official Consumer Announce Date (OCAD) which is the exact release date of the item. With a sleek design users are able to narrow searches by type (Blu-Ray or DVD), timeframe (weekly or monthly) and by genre (action, comedy, documentary etc.). VideoETA is a customer friendly and in-depth resource.

Author/Publisher: VideoETA, Inc.

Date reviewed: March 12, 2015

Index of Economic Freedom

This site provides an annual guide to raise awareness of economic freedom and opportunity in countries world-wide based on ten measures or “freedoms:” Business, Trade, Fiscal, Monetary, Investment, Financial, Property, Freedom from Corruption, and Government Spending. Features include a heat map to show how countries stack up with each other, a highlighted list of countries with the highest overall rank along with a link to the entire list in rank order, along with a graphing feature to see data for up to three counties and one indicator from 1995 to present. A world average is shown for additional comparison. This site is useful for students, scholars, and the general public-anyone who is concerned about the fundamental right to control his or her own labor and property.

Author/Publisher: The Heritage Foundation in partnership with the Wall Street Journal

Date Reviewed: March 11, 2015

Woodall’s North American Campground Directory

Also known as Good Sam RV Travel Guide and Directory, this website features descriptions and ratings of campgrounds with an emphasis on travel by RV (recreational vehicles). The facilities rated include RV parks, resorts, and rentals in addition to private tent campgrounds. The directory can be searched by location, names, or browsed and is an excellent resource for families or retired persons planning vacations or extended winter travel. Each entry has detailed information about the facility, sites, nearby recreation, and other amenities. Includes National Forest and National Park campgrounds as well with detailed information about fees and facilities.

Author/Publisher: Good Sam RV Travel Guide and Campground Directory

Date reviewed: February 23, 2015

State Tax Forms and Filing Options

This site provides links to all 50 states’ websites for income tax forms and filing sites. Clicking on the state on the United States map or on the name of the state opens a list of links to that state’s current year tax forms, filing options, and main tax or revenue department. It is useful for anyone who needs forms and filing information for particular states. Since all state-level tax agencies are members of the Federation of Tax Administrators, this site provides an authoritative and up-to-date source for quickly locating state tax forms and filing options for all fifty states.

Author/Publisher: Federation of Tax Administrators

Date Reviewed: March 7, 2015


Subtitled “The World’s Constitutions to Read, Search, and Compare”, this site provides constitutions in force as of September 2013 from most of the world’s independent states. Constitutions are updated as they are amended. A user can browse using an alphabetical list, read in html, download in pdf, search by keyword or phrase, see where specific topics occur in each constitution, and select two to eight constitutions to compare side-by-side on a particular topic. The site has a clean, uncluttered design, with date of the constitution in effect and date of last amendment shown next to each country’s name. It is appropriate for students, scholars, and anyone interested in this topic. Constitute is an outstanding source for learning about and comparing the constitutions of most countries of the world.

Author/Publisher: Comparative Constitutions Project, University of Texas

Date Reviewed: March 8, 2015

Copyright Tools…copyright-tools

The five copyright tools presented on this site are useful for anyone who uses copyrighted materials in his or her work, education, or leisure activities. Two of the tools, Public Domain Slider and Copyright Genie, help determine if a work is in the Public Domain. The Fair Use Evaluator and Exceptions for Instructors e-Tool help teachers and others determine whether use of a particular copyrighted work may fall under fair use or one of the other educational exceptions to the rights of the copyright owner. The Section 108 Spinner helps libraries and archives decide whether, under certain circumstances, they can make reproductions of copyrighted materials. Overall these tools will help anyone become more comfortable reusing copyrighted works. Only by using the valuable exceptions to a copyright holder’s rights, can “we strengthen copyright’s primary purpose-“to promote the progress of science and useful arts” (U. S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8).”

Author/Publisher: American Library Association, Office for Information Technology Policy

Date Reviewed: March 7, 2015

Internet Bird Collection

The Internet Bird Collection contains videos, photographs and sound recordings of all the birds of the world. The IBC is the YouTube of Birds and contains more than 200,000 materials and is constantly growing. The site’s goal is to post at least one video or photo per species and eventually include material offering a variety of biological information (feeding, breeding, etc.) for every species. Users can perform a species search, geographic search, and global search for particular birds. Each bird record available on the site provides a map, taxonomy and geographic information, videos, photos and bird sounds.

Author/Publisher: Lynx Edicions

Date reviewed: March 5, 2015

Open Culture: The Best Free Cultural & Educational Media on the

Open Culture is an online information portal that brings together freely available cultural and educational materials on the web. Resources on the site include links to online courses, certificate courses like MOOCs, movies, audio books, language learning tools, ebooks, and educational resources for children. The content on the site is keyword searchable or browsed via categorized links at the top of the page. Additional links on the right-hand side of the home page provide access to the sites most popular content. Also included is a blog of cultural topics on subjects ranging from art, music, literature, anthropology, science, and more. Overall, the site offers a wealth of information compiled in one place that otherwise would need to be searched for individually.

Author/Publisher: Open Culture

Date reviewed: February 27, 2015

AFI Catalog of Feature Films

The AFI Catalog of Feature films is a research database providing access to information “on every feature-length film produced in America or financed by American production companies” from 1893 to 2011. Basic and Advanced search functions allow users to locate information about the cast, crew, plot, production dates, music, subjects, genres, historical notes, and review sources for each film. Also included as a part of the AFI site are the American Film Institute’s Award honorees from 2000 through 2014 and the Institute’s top 100 films in twelve categories.

Author/Publisher: American Film Institute (AFI)

Date reviewed: February 27, 2015

WikiArt: Visual Art Encyclopedia

WikiArt is an ongoing project to create a free online repository of art images, from the classical to modern periods. Images in the collection are of works in both the public domain and those protected by copyright. A copyright notice warns users that protected images are for instructional purposes only and should not be copied or downloaded. Artists can be browsed by alphabet, art movement, school or group, genre, nationality, or century. Artworks can be browsed by style, genre, or technique. Artist pages include brief biographical information, a link to a Wikipedia article (when available), and links to individual artworks. Pages for individual artworks include the name of the artist, the completion date, style, and genre.

Author/Publisher: WikiArt

Date reviewed: February 26, 2015

The Best Free Reference Websites selection committee consists of Ashley Rosener, co-chair; Paul Victor, co-chair; Christine Barnes; Georgia Baugh; Ava Marie Brillat; Jessica Cerny; Allyssa Guzman; Laura Hall; Brian Kooy; Yaniv Masjedi; Autumn Mather; Sue McFadden; Sheena Sewell; Jeremy Walker.

The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), a division of the American Library Association, represents librarians and library staff in the fields of reference, specialized reference, collection development, readers’ advisory and resource sharing. RUSA is the foremost organization of reference and information professionals who make the connections between people and the information sources, services, and collection materials they need. Learn more about RUSA’s Book and Media Awards at

RUSA announces 2015 book and media awards for adults

RUSA announced the top books in fiction, nonfiction, poetry and genre; audio books; and reference books for adults – including the Notable Books List, Reading List, Sophie Brody Medal, Listen List, Dartmouth Medal and Outstanding Reference Sources – at its Midwinter Meeting in Chicago.

A list of all the 2015 award winners follows:

Notable Books List for excellence in fiction, nonfiction and poetry:


“All My Puny Sorrows” by Miriam Toews (McSweeneys)

“All the Light We Cannot  See” by Anthony Doerr (Scribner)

“The Bone Clocks: A Novel” by David Mitchell (Random House)

“The Children Act” by Ian McEwan (Nan A Talese)

“The Crane Wife” by Patrick Ness (Penguin)

“The Enchanted: A Novel” by Rene Denfeld (Harper)

“Narrow Road to the Deep North: A Novel” by Richard Flanagan (Alfred A. Knopf)

“On Such a Full Sea” by Chang-Rae Lee (Riverhead)

“Orfeo: A Novel” by Richard Powers (W.W. Norton)

“Something Rich and Strange: Selected Stories” by Ron Rash (Ecco)

“Station Eleven: A Novel” by Emily St. John Mandel (Alfred A. Knopf)

“Tigerman” by Nick Harkaway (Alfred A. Knopf)


“The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution” by Jonathan Eig (W.W. Norton)

“Blood Royal: A True Tale of Crime and Detection in Medieval Paris” by Eric Jager (Little, Brown and Company)

“Dark Invasion: 1915 Germany’s Secret War and the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in America” by Howard Blum (Harper)

“Factory Man” by Beth Macy (Little, Brown and Company)

“In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeanette” by Hampton Sides (Doubleday)

“Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story” by Rick Bragg (Harper)

“Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson (Spiegel & Grau)

“The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses” by Kevin Birmingham (Penguin Press)

“No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State” by Glenn Greenwald (Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt)

“Pandora’s DNA: Tracing the Breast Cancer Genes Through History, Science, and One Family Tree” by Lizzie Stark (Chicago Review Press)

“The Secret History of Wonder Woman” by Jill Lepore (Alfred A. Knopf)

“The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History” by Elizabeth Kolbert (Henry Holt)


“The Blue Buick: New and Selected Poems” by B.H.Fairchild (W.W. Norton)

“Gabriel: A Poem”, by Edward Hirsch (Knopf)

For a complete list of 2015 winners and annotations, see the official announcement here. For a list of past winners and more information on the award and Notable Books Council, visit the Notable Books Award page.

Reading List for excellence in genre fiction:


“Broken Monsters” by Lauren Beukes (Mulholland Books)


“The Goblin Emperor” by Katherine Addison (Tor)

Historical Fiction

“Bitter Greens” by Kate Forsyth (Thomas Dunne)


“The Lesser Dead” by Christopher Buehlman (Penguin)


“Murder at the Brightwell” by Ashley Weaver (Minotaur)


“A Bollywood Affair” by Sonali Dev (Kensington)

Science Fiction

“The Martian” by Andy Weir (Crown)

Women’s Fiction

“My Real Children” by Jo Walton (Tor)

For a complete list of annotations, shortlist titles and read alikes for the 2015 list, see the official announcement here. For a list of past winners and more information on the Reading List Council, visit the Reading List award page.

Sophie Brody Medal for excellence in Jewish Literature:

“A Replacement Life” by Boris Fishman (HarperCollins)

Honorable mentions include:
“The Mathematician’s Shiva” by Stuart Rojstaczer (Penguin)
“In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist” by Ruchama King Feuerman (New York Review of Books)

For a complete description of the 2015 award winner and honorable mentions, see the official announcement here. For a list of past winners and more information on the Sophie Brody Medal, visit the Sophie Brody Medal award page.

Listen List for outstanding audiobook narration:

“The Bees” by Laline Paull. Narrated by Orlagh Cassidy. Blackstone Audio/HarperAudio.

“Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him” by David Henry & Joe Henry. Narrated by Dion Graham. Tantor Media.

“The Home Place” by Carrie La Seur. Narrated by Andrus Nichols. Blackstone Audio/HarperAudio.

“The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd. Narrated by Jenna Lamia and Adepero Oduye. Penguin Audio/Recorded Books.

“Lord of Scoundrels” by Loretta Chase. Narrated by Kate Reading. Blackstone Audio.

“The Martian” by Andy Weir. Narrated by R.C. Bray. Podium Publishing.

“Moonraker” by Ian Fleming. Narrated by Bill Nighy. Blackstone Audio.

“The Moonstone” by Wilkie Collins.  Narrated by Ronald Pickup, Joe Marsh, Fenella Woolgar, Sam Dale, Jonathan Oliver, Jamie Parker, Sean Barrett, David Timson, John Foley and Benjamin Soames. Naxos AudioBooks.

“Queen of the Tearling,” by Erika Johansen. Narrated by Katherine Kellgren. Blackstone Audio.

“The Silkworm” by Robert Galbraith. Narrated by Robert Glenister. Blackstone Audio/Hachette Audio.

“Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel. Narrated by Kirsten Potter. Books on Tape/Random House Audio.

“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien. Narrated by Bryan Cranston. Brilliance Audio.

For a complete list of annotations and listen alikes for the 2015 winners, see the official announcement here. For a list of past winners and more information on the Listen List, visit the Listen List award page.

Dartmouth Medal for the most distinguished reference publication:

“Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism” published by Princeton University Press.

For a complete description of the award and 2015 winner, see the official announcement here. For a list of past winners and more information on the Dartmouth Medal award, visit the Dartmouth Medal award page.

Outstanding Reference Sources for excellence in reference:

“American Indians at Risk” Edited by Jeffrey Ian Ross (Greenwood)

“Black Stats: African Americans by the Numbers in the Twenty-First Century” by Monique W. Morris (The New Press)

“Bumblebees of North America” by Paul Williams, Robin Thorp, Leif Richardson and Shelia Colla (Princeton University Press)

“Consumer Healthcare” Edited by Brigham Narins (Gale Cengage Learning)

“Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon” Edited by Barbara Cassin. Translation edited by Emily Apter, Jaques Lezra, and Michael Wood (Princeton University Press)

“Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice” Edited by Jay S. Albanese (Wiley Blackwell)

“Encyclopedia of Deception” Edited by Timothy R. Levine (Sage Publishing)

“Encyclopedia of Humor Studies” Edited by Salvatore Attardo (Sage Publishing)

“Encyclopedia of the Wars of The Early American Republic, 1783-1812” Edited by Spencer C Tucker (ABC-CLIO)

“Muhammad in History, Thought, and Culture: An Encyclopedia of the Prophet of God” Edited by Coeli Fitzpatrick and Adam Hani Walker (ABC-CLIO)

For more information about the award, see the official announcement here. For a complete list of past winners and more information on the award, visit the Outstanding Reference Sources award page.

Selected by judging committees of librarians and other readers’ advisory experts, the awards highlight outstanding works for adult readers and libraries nationwide.  For more information on RUSA’s Book and Media Awards, please visit

SAVE THE DATE! Midwinter Meeting attendees invited to celebrate RUSA’s book and media awards

All ALA Midwinter Meeting attendees are invited to celebrate the winners of our many adult reading awards — including the Notable Books, from which selections are chosen for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Non-Fiction; the Reading List, announcing the best in genre fiction; and the Listen List, announcing the best in audiobook narration — at RUSA’s Book and Media Awards ceremony and reception.

In addition to the Reading List and Notable Books selections — lists that are used by librarians and readers’ advisors nationwide — winners will also be announced for the Dartmouth Medal, Sophie Brody Medal, the Zora Neale Hurston award and other professional resource lists, including Outstanding Business Reference Sources, Best Reference Sources, Best Free Websites, Best Business Websites and Best Historic Materials.

The reception will be held from 5 – 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 26, in the Liberty Ballroom A at the Sheraton Philadelphia, 201 N. 17th St., and will offer food and a cash bar. Meeting attendees will find this event listed in the meeting program as the RUSA Book & Media Awards Ceremony and Reception. This event is made possible by the generous support of Novelist.

The literary winners announced at this event will shape the author line-up for the Literary Tastes author panel at ALA’s 2014 Annual Conference in Las Vegas. Attendees at this event will have the opportunity to listen to our favorite authors speak about their works and writing process. Authors will be available for book signings immediately following the event.

More information about the awards winners and the Literary Tastes event are available on the RUSA website and RUSA blog following the January event.

We hope to see you there!