A strong collection of reference material is one of the hallmarks of a good library, and the effective use of reference materials is the hallmark of a good researcher. At the Free Library, we strive to provide you with access to the authoritative information you need for your essays and research projects and the guidance to help you get the most from them.
One resource that is too often overlooked is Gale Virtual Reference Library or GVRL. You'll find a link to GVRL on our database page. Unlike more specifically themed resources like Health & Wellness Resource Center or Biography in Context that tell you exactly what you can expect to find once you start using them, the vaguely named GVRL suffers from what is, ironically, its greatest strength: a very broad scope. In GVRL you'll find the full text of hundreds of reference ebooks on everything from art and business to careers and ancient history. It's an essential part of your research process.
Highlights of GVRL include the Encyclopedia of World Biography, Business Plans Handbook, Encyclopedia of American Industries, Gale Encyclopedia of Science, Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, College Blue Book, and many more.
In the past, the Library purchased multiple copies of specialized encyclopedias and reference works for our neighborhood libraries throughout the city. This was a costly and inefficient system. Any Philadelphian of a certain age will remember making the trip to Parkway Central Library to use the reference books they couldn't find at their local library. Now, resources like GVRL have made that largely unnecessary. Take a look at the video below for an introduction to GVRL. It might save you a trip next time you need to do some research—then you can use that time to come visit us for a cooking class, an author event, or a storytime!