Virtual Reference Desk - General Reference
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General Reference

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CIA World Factbook -
Extensive country information, maps, charts, and statistics.
DoD Almanac -
This web site provides a variety of information and statistical material about the Department of Defense - its people, organization, equipment, and funding.
Information Please Almanac -
Quick facts and overviews covering a range of topics. The almanac can be browsed or searched.
Old Farmer's Almanac  -
Limited free access to the astronomy, weather, gardening, and food related information found in the Old Farmer's Almanac.
Virtual Reference Desk -
Selected Web resources chosen by The Library of Congress

Atlases & Maps

Driving Directions

MapBlast -
Travel direction maps.
MapQuest -
Travel guide and searchable driving directions for any destination. -
Another searchable travel guide which also has other features, such as an Online World Atlas, Topozone, and Earthweek.


Biographical Dictionary  -
More than 27,000 notable men and women who have shaped our world from ancient times to the present day.
Biography-Center  -
A searchable, multi-lingual biographical directory to over 10,600 biographies which also indexes and provides links to biographies available from other Web sites.
Biography -
Entries for over 20,000 of the greatest lives, past and present.
Nobel Prize Winners  -
Links to the presentation speeches, biographies, and other resources for each of the Nobel prize winners since 1901. You can browse by year, category, or first/last name.
Portrait Gallery -
From the Perry-Castañeda Library, University of Texas at Austin, public domain portraits of famous people that may be used freely in any project.

Artists, Entertainers, Writers -
Use the search box at the top of the page to find biography, discography, songs, and more for musicians from many genres.
Find a Poet -
The Academy of American Poets collection of biographies on more than 450 poets.
Internet Movie Database -
Use the search box on the left side of the screen and change the search mode to people. Most actor entries will include a brief bio, a filmography, and lots of links to interesting facts. Several biographies include excerpts or reprints from reputable print biographical sources.

Politicians & Rulers
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress: 1774 to the Present -
Search by name, position, state, party or year. In addition to the bios, you'll find links to the House and Senate history Web sites with more details on people who have served in Congress.
Political Graveyard -
An incomplete but unusual database of politicians and government officials. The coverage of the site includes "certain federal officials, state officeholders and candidates in all 50 states, state and national political party officials, federal and state judges, and mayors (including candidates at election for mayor) of qualifying cities.
POTUS: Presidents of the United States -
Named after the Secret Service code for "Presidents of the United States", POTUS, part of the Internet Public Libary, provides information on all 43 presidents, listed in chronological order.
The Presidents of the United States -
The White House web site includes bios for all Presidents and their wives "from from the book The Presidents of the United States of America written by Frank Freidel and Hugh S. Sidey (contributing author), published by the White House Historical Association with the cooperation of the National Geographic Society."
Judges of the United States Courts -
"The Federal Judges Biographical Database contains the service record and biographical information for all judges who have served on the U.S. District Courts, U.S. Circuit Courts, U.S. Courts of Appeals, and the Supreme Court since 1789."

National Inventors Hall of Fame -
Browsable or searchable by invention or inventors name and includes a time-line of inventions.

Distinguished Women of Past and Present -

Biographies of women who contributed to our culture in many different ways, including writers, educators, scientists, heads of state, politicians, civil rights crusaders, artists, entertainers, and others.
North American Women Artists of the Twentieth Century : A Biographical Dictionary  - eBook resource requiring on campus use or logon for off campus access.

Garland Reference Library of the Humanities, Vol. 1219, by Jules Heller, made available by EBSCO eBooks.

Living or Not?
Dead or Alive? -
Browse or search the database for famous people to confirm whether they are dead or alive. Database also includes brief biographical information.
Who's Alive and Who is Dead -
Another resource that helps in keeping track of which famous people have died and which are still alive.
Social Security Death Index -
Generated from the U. S. Social Security Administration's Death Master File, this database includes birth date, death date, last residence, and social security number.


American Heritage Dictionary -
The 3rd edition (1996) made available at
Information Please -
Choose the dictionary.
Merriam-Webster Online -
Definitions and a sound file for proper pronunciation.
One-Look Dictionaries -
Index to more than 6 million words found in 990+ dictionaries.
WordSmyth -
English dictionary and thesaurus featuring a word of the day and various search options including definition, pronunciation and synonyms all hyperlinked. From the University of Chicago AFTFL Project.  -
Features an index of 1,200+ dictionaries in more than 200 languages and other word tools including 60 specialized dictionaries.

Acronym & Abbreviation Dictionaries
Acronym Finder -
A searchable database of 109,800 acronyms/abbreviations and their meanings, with a focus on computers, technology, telecommunications, and the military.
World Wide Web Acronym and Abbreviation Server  -
A searchable database of more than 17,845 acronymns, updated weekly.

Language Dictionaries
American Sign Language Brower -
Access "video of thousands of ASL signs and learn interesting things about them courtesy of Michigan State University."
A Basic Chaucer Glossary -
A list of words from Chaucer's work with a modern English equivalent.
Handspeak  -
A sign language dictionary featuring video clips demonstrating hundreds of American Sign Language terms.

Medical Dictionaries
Medicine.Net's Medical Dictionary  -
Browse or search for terms.  Many entries include linked references to other relevant information.
Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy  -
The 17th edition from Merck is searchable or browse by table of contents.

Quotations Dictionaries
Bartlett's Familiar Quotations -
The 10th edition with over 11,000 searchable quotations (the 17th edition of this work is available in print at both Calhoun Community College libraries).
Simpson's Contemporary Quotations -
1988 edition with over "9,000 quotations from 4,000 sources organized into 25 categories and 60 sections."

Technical Dictionaries
Dictionary of Computing -
A searchable dictionary of terms and acronyms with over 13,000 definitions.
High Tech Dictionary -
Search for more than 7,000 high tech terms.
Telecom Glossary 2000 -
Search or browse this glossary of telecommunications terms that began as the Federal Standard 1037C, Glossary of Telecommunication Terms glossary.

Word & Phrase Origins
Behind the Name: Etymology of First Names -
A searchable database of first names, or you can browse by alphabet, geography, or a set of categories (i.e., Biblical, ancient, literature, etc.).
Behind the Name: Etymology of Surnames -
Search the database or browse by geography or ethnicity.
IdiomSite -
A dictionary of the origins of words and phrases.


Colleges & Universities
American Universities -
Links to the homepages of American Universities granting bachelor or advanced degrees.
Community Colleges -
Search for community college web sites by name, location, or keyword.
Directory of Internet Universities -
Browse by graduate or undergraduate programs.
IPEDS College Opportunities OnLine -
Link to over 9,000 colleges and universities in the United States, including large universities, small liberal arts colleges, specialized colleges, community colleges, career and technical college and trade schools.
Peterson's College Search -
Search for colleges and universities by name, location, tuition, enrollment size, average GPA, or student/faculty ratio.

People & Phone Books
AT&T  Real Yellow Pages
The online version of The Real Yellow Pages with residential, business, and government listings.
Martindale-Hubbell Lawyer Locator
Search for lawyers by name, firm, location, or specialty.
Social Security Death Index - 
An interactive search at RootsWeb of over 72 million social security death records.  This source is updated monthly.
Switchboard Dictionary -
Nationwide telephone and address directory.
Reverse Look-Up -
Enter a phone number to retrieve the person or business associated with that number.   This is an AT&T sponsored directory. -
Another AT&T sponsored directory.  It includes separate search pages for businesses or residences in addition to city and consumer guides.

Online Newspapers -
A directory of online newspapers from around the world which can be searched by keyword or browsed by region or title. -
A directory of online newspapers listed alphabetically and searchable by location.

Associations on the Net -
A collection of hundreds of Internet sites providing information about a wide variety of professional and trade associations, cultural and art organizations, political parties and advocacy groups, labor unions, academic societies, and research institutions.
The site of the Biotechnology Association of Alabama.  In addition to membership information, site includes news and events information on the state and national levels.
NIRA World Directory of Think Tanks
Links to public policy institutes from over one hundred countries, including more than 70 from the U.S.
Process Register
A database of manufacturing suppliers and services.  With 80,000 vendors and over 20,000 products, it is worth a look, but does not come close to replacing Thomas Register of Manufacturers (see below) for depth and coverage.
Thomas Register of Manufacturers -
ThomasNet is an industrial search engine that allows you to keyword search or browse by company or category to find products, services, or suppliers. It also includes line-item product details, CAD drawings, and more.

Zip Codes
Zip Code Directory -
From the US Postal Service, a database that lets you look up zip codes by address, city, or company.


Get -
A safe place to research distance degrees. "No Degree Mills - No Unaccredited Colleges - No Online Universities Accredited by Bogus Agencies."
The Elements of Style -
Written by William Strunk, Jr. and made available online by
JobStar -
Tools for preparing resumes, including resume styles, samples, cover letters, and other resources.
Occupational Outlook Handbook -
"Revised every two years, the Handbook describes what workers do on the job, working conditions, the training and education needed, earnings, and expected job prospects in a wide range of occupations."
Periodic (Chemistry) Table -
The periodic chart and information about the elements from Los Alamos National Laboratory's Chemistry Division.
The United States Government Manual -
This official handbook of the Federal Government provides "comprehensive information on the agencies of the legislative, judicial, and executive branches."


Encyclopedia of Alabama
A free, online reference resource on Alabama’s history, culture, geography, and natural environment.
Encyclopedia Mythica -
Online encyclopedia on mythology, folklore, legends, and related subjects.
The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy -
A browsable encyclopedia of articles on philosophy edited by two philosophy professors. Most articles are signed contributions; those that are not are considered temporary entries to be replaced in the future.
The Literary Encyclopedia and the Literary Dictionary -
An online encyclopedia written by over 1000 named scholars, most of whom are current university teachers, with over 2550 profiles of writers, works, and topics. New records added every week.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy -
"A dynamic reference work, each entry is maintained and kept up to date by an expert or group of experts in the field. All entries and updates are refereed by the members of a distinguished Editorial Board before they are made public."


Networks & News Organizations
Associated Press -
ABC News -
BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation) -
CNN Interactive -
Fox News -
NPR  -
Reuters  -
Voice of America -

Clearinghouses -
Direct links to new reports from government agencies, NGOs,think tanks, and other groups.
First Things First -
A quick guide to wire services, newspapers, and other sites for current information on the Web.
Newspaper Archives on the Web -
Provides links to Web versions of 62 U.S. newspapers from 29 states and their full-text online back files.
Newswise -
A clearinghouse for press releases from universities, nonprofit organizations, PR firms, government agencies and corporations.  You can search the site and/or sign up for daily email alerts. -
A directory of online newspapers, listed alphabetically and searchable by location.
Online Newspapers from around the World (Internet Public Library) -
Search the database, or browse by country or publication title.
Television News Archive at Vanderbilt University -
Abstracts of more than 30,000 individual network evening news broadcasts and more than 9,000 hours of special news-related programming, all of which are available for online loan requests (for a fee).

RSS News Feeds
RSS Specifications -
An "everything you need to know" site about RSS, includes explanation of RSS, what you need to create, display, and read RSS feeds, directory of RSS sites, forums and more.
A good directory of RSS feeds that you can search or browse.


U.S. Government Sources
American Fact-Finder -
From the U.S. Census Bureau.
Bureau of Economic Analysis -
Vast economic data arranged by categories: national, international, regional, or industry.  You can also use the index to locate relevant data.
Bureau of Justice Statistics -
The source for criminal and justice system statistics on the federal level.  Includes links to the FBI data, juvenile justice statistics, and other relevant online collections.
Bureau of Labor Statistics -
A huge source for data on employment, spending, demographics, productivity, occupations, and more.
Bureau of Transportation Statistics -
Search or browse by mode of transportation, subject (i.e., safety, infrastructure, etc.), or agency.
Economic Research Service -
The Department of Agriculture's statistics portal.  In addition to numerous sources for farming and food data, you'll find data on rural issues, land use, conservation, and foreign countries.
Energy Information Administration -
In addition to large datasets, you can access reports about energy prices, consumption, policy, and more.
Statistics of interest to the public from more than 70 federal agencies.
National Agricultural Statistics Service
Another Department of Agriculture Web site.  This one includes the Quick Stats database, The Census of Agriculture, and historical data.
National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) -
The CDC's expansive data sets on issues of health, birth, aging, and death.
National Center for Health Statistics -
From the primary organization that collects, collates, analyzes, and reports statistics on American education.
State Labor Market Information
This site provides links to the state offices with statistical data on labor and workforce issues.
Statistical Abstract of the United States
Also known as the National Data Book, this source has statistics on social and economic conditions in the United States.  You can view the current edition or past editions.
Statistics of Income -
Access the IRS statistical data on individual, corporate, charitable, and estate taxes.  The site includes large data sets and full-text reports.
U.S. Census Bureau -
Searchable statistics by subject which can also be browsed A-Z.

International Sources
International Statistical Agencies -
Links to official government statistical sources for countries around the world.
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe -
Links to official statistics for Europe and North America.  This site includes government sources, nongovernmental sources, and links to other regions.
United Nations Statistics Division -
Links to the UN's free and fee-based statistical databases.

Nongovernmental Sources
EPI DataZone -
The Economic Policy Institute's statistics dealing with the labor market, earnings, and income.
Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) -
An archive of research and instructional data in the social sciences. ICPSR archives census enumerations, health statistics, attitudinal and behavioral surveys, opinion polls and other data are collected from government agencies, individual researchers and other sources.

Public Opinion
The National Election Studies -
NES conducts national surveys of the American electorate in presidential and midterm election years. The NES time-series now encompasses 23 biennial Election Studies spanning five decades.
The National Network of State Polls -
The site contains a data archive containing over 350 state-level studies (consisting of over 31,000 questions) from 22 survey organizations in 19 states.
Polling -
Large set of public opinion polls - elections, State of the Union issues, national security, and news items (abortion, immigrants, stem cell research, etc.).
Public Agenda -
Guides to 'hot topic' issues, current policy issues and public opinion data, and research studies, news, press releases.
The Roper Center: Public Opinion Matters -;start=HS_pom_list
The free section of The Roper Center's enormous collection of public opinion polls.
CBS News Polls -
National public opinion survey data.
The Gallup Organization -
A source for public opinion data since 1935. This site is regularly updated with selected recent Gallup Polls and special reports.  Most data is available for a fee only.
Washington Post Polls -
Public opinion poll results and commentary.
Zogby News -
This site contains public opinion poll results, commentary, news archives, and articles on polling facts and myths.

Style Guides

Center for Writing Studies - Citation Styles
From the University of Chicago at Urbana-Champaign, this site "summarizes and illustrates the bibliographical formatting rules for two different citation styles: the American Psychological Association (APA) style and the Modern Languages Association (MLA) style."

The Elements of Style -
Written by William Strunk, Jr. and made available online by
Psychology with Style  -
A hypertext guide to writing research reports for students and instructors of experimental and research methods courses.
Writer's Handbook: MLA Documentation -
Citation examples from the MLA Handbook provided by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center.
Purdue Online Writing Lab
Research and citation resources.


Roget's Thesaurus  -
Browse the thesaurus alphabetically.
The official site for accessing Princeton's mammoth thesaurus of the English language.