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25 Awesome Beta Research Tools from Libraries Around the World

If you're tired of using the same old search box on your local library website for research projects, it might be time to broaden your horizons. Try out one of these in-the-works betas sponsored by world-class libraries around the world. From academic libraries like that at MIT or renowned research centers like the Library of Congress, the following beta research tools feature innovative tricks to connect you with the most relevant, valid results on the Internet and in their card catalogs. Melvil Dewey would be proud.

Tools Used at College and University Libraries

Check out this list for academically-minded beta search tools sponsored by universities around the world.

  1. Vera Multi-Search: MIT: This new tool is still in the works, but once it's officially approved, students and researchers can use Vera Multi-Search as a way to find material in several different databases with one single search.
  2. Project Blacklight: University of Virginia: UVA's Blacklight tool gives students the advanced ability to narrow down their searches and "more easily filter content" in order to increase their chances of finding exact matches and helpful research materials. Developed by Erik Hatcher and UVA library staff, Blacklight features several filters, subject searches and multimedia tools to enhance the research process.
  3. LibX: This browser extension lets users search library catalogs, e-journal lists, databases and other library websites from their toolbars. Users can also easily highlight key words, save information and access personal library accounts. LibX is an open source project, allowing universities to continually develop and rework their own versions of the plugin.
  4. Quick Start: Brigham Young University: This program, used at BYU's Harold B. Lee Library, lets students tailor their search to books, articles, or a combination of the two. Powered by the GoogleScholar Beta, Quick Start points researchers in the right direction from the very beginning.
  5. Encore: Michigan State: Michigan State's new beta project, Encore, connects researchers to books, journals, articles and other materials. Try out the search, and then send in your feedback.
  6. HBLL Firefox Extension: Brigham Young University: BYU's Harold B. Lee Library also sponsors this unique Firefox extension. The beta search tool lets researchers search within the HBLL for articles, books, personal account information and other materials with just one search box hidden inside your Firefox toolbar. Other quick links include information about library hours, floor maps, study room reservations and interlibrary loans.
  7. New Books Beta: University of Otago: This New Zealand library keeps new books in a separate search engine for one week before sending them into general circulation. Users can search by subject or library to narrow down their search even further.
  8. Library Search: University of Minnesota: The college's new Web interface is simply called Library Search, a program that is divided into two sections: Books and More: Twin Cities (MNCAT Catalog) and Articles. The MNCAT Catalog searches materials in libraries and databases in the Twin Cities. Researchers can find individual titles and journal entries in the Articles search.
  9. LCSH Tag Cloud: Flinders University: Australia's Flinders University is currently testing out this search tool, which displays categories in a cloud-like format, similar to ones used on social media sites and blogs.
  10. Windows Live Academic Search: Schools like University College Dublin are trying out this beta search tool, which supports books, dissertations, conferences and more.
  11. MIT Tech TV: This beta program also comes with a collection of video tutorials that gives tips on using the MIT library services.
  12. JHOVE: This tool, developed by JSTOR and Harvard University, "provides functions to perform format-specific identification, validation, and characterization of digital objects."
  13. Google Scholar: Google Scholar and Google Advanced Scholar Search are popular beta tools that allow researchers to search academic journals, books, articles and other materials.
  14. Live Search Books: Windows Live Book Search has partnered with with the University of California and University of Toronto to improve academic and book searches within its beta program.
Non-Academic Libraries and Tools

For access to even more new developments and cutting-edge research tools, review this list of betas, sponsored by Firefox, the Library of Congress, the British Library and more.

  1. Zotero: This Firefox add-on is perfect for students and professionals who need to keep track of a heavy load of research sites. The add-on stores PDFs, files, images, links and records in any language; automatically saves citations; offers a note taking autosave feature and more. The best part? It all fits neatly in your Firefox browser without getting in the way. The tool is currently used at the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young but is sponsored by the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
  2. New Search (BETA) -- Library of Congress: This simple tool lets researchers search just the Library of Congress website, U.S. historical collections, LofC online catalog, prints and photographs online catalog, the THOMAS Legislative Information System, or all 5 at once. It's the first time the library has given its users a chance to search all areas of the site by typing in keywords only once.
  3. WorldCat: WorldCat connects libraries all over the world with information on the Internet. Many university libraries like the University of Washington, Trinity College, Wheaton College, the University of Minnesota and the University of Arizona all use WorldCat to enhance student, faculty and personal research abilities. Features like custom-designed search lists, shareable search results and browser plugins have made this beta a success so far.
  4. Web Curator Tool Project: A project sponsored by the National Library of New Zealand and the British Library, this beta tool is designed to help researchers find relevant information on the Internet.
  5. JISC Academic Database Assessment Tool: This tool, sponsored by Scopus, the International Bibliography of the Social Sciences, Thomson Scientific and ProQuest, is designed to help libraries identify quality future subscriptions to various databases. Users are encouraged to compare journal title lists, database platforms and eBook platforms to find the best fit for their library.
  6. Fez: This open source project lets libraries working with Fedora "to produce and maintain a highly flexible web interface" for organizing their online archives and documents. Organizations currently involved in the project include Tufts University, University of Queensland, MediaShelf, Digital Peer Publishing and the University of Prince Edward Island.
  7. Sustainability of Digital Formats: Planning for Library of Congress Collections: This project aims to redesign and evaluate a new system of describing content with appropriate digital formats, making it easier for users to search through catalogs and databases.
  8. Google Book Search Library Project: Google's popular Book Search is now working with libraries to incorporate their card catalogs into Google's beta tool. Users will be able to find copyrighted books as well as books that are out of print.
  9. THOMAS: The Library of Congress is developing another search tool, called THOMAS. Researchers seeking legislative materials like the Congressional Record, U.S. treaties and more. Users can search the entire database with only one search box and choose to search by sponsor or topic.
  10. LibWorm: This beta helps you "search the biblioblogosphere and beyond." When you want to start your search on the Internet but only want to find library-related material, this tool can help. By pulling information from over 1500 RSS feeds in categories like academic libraries, government libraries, law libraries, podcasts: librarianship, medical libraries and more.
  11. PhiloBiblon: This highly-specialized beta search engine is in development at the Berkeley Digital Library SunSITE. Early texts produced in the Iberian Peninsula are available on the Internet through this search engine, helping researchers find rare materials.

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