Best Free Reference Web Sites 2001
Third Annual List
RUSA Machine-Assisted Reference Section (MARS)

This is an annual series initiated under the auspices of the Machine-Assisted Reference Section (MARS) of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA)of ALA to recognize outstanding reference sites on the World Wide Web. View selection criteria.

"Since the Web is a changing world, readers should note that these Web sites were as annotated on the date the member reviewed the site. Reviewing previous lists is not part of the charge of the Committee (formerly the Task Force on the Best of Free Reference Web Sites). However, we will make note of updated links, or other very substantial changes (such as a conversion from free to fee-based), if they are brought to our attention." RUSA Quarterly Fall 2001 ( Inc. Reviewed Mar. 30, 2001. was launched in 1999 by the editors of the print Africana and Encarta Africana encyclopedia. Describing itself as the "Digital Bridge," this resource contains a wide variety of content and services, including e-mail, daily and archived news and feature stories from a variety of sources, interactive discussion, shopping, music, book and movie reviews, and a crossword puzzle. Feature stories are organized into "channels" such as "Black World" and "Arts." The Encarta Africana portion of the site links to articles featured on the Web page. The list of articles is browsable but there is also a site search feature. Now a part of the AOL Time Warner family, the site has undergone some changes, including streamlined graphics and a new e-mail utility. This site is well organized and is a particularly good site to consult for people and current events in the black community.


AJR Newslink ( AJR and NewsLink Associates. Reviewed Apr. 2, 2001.

AJR and Newslink have split into two sites. Newslink, offering links to newspapers, broadcaster, magazines and joblink advertising, is now available at AJR, containing news and columns from the American Journalism Review Magazine is now available from 3/3/2003

AJR Newslink provides "18,000 links to newspapers, magazines, broadcasters and news services worldwide." This joint venture of American Journalism Review and NewsLink Associates has a section called "Digital Feed" (which includes online-only columns by new-media experts and original content of special interest to readers of online news) and a section titled "Bylines" (to update the journalism community on personnel changes.) This site is a must for journalists, news junkies, communication students, reference librarians and those who simply want to stay in touch through their hometown newspaper. The very comprehensive "Resources" section includes links to journalism organizations, publishers and academic resources, new-media newsletters, media reports and marketing research, WWW Search tools, and starting points for journalists including broadcasting and photojournalism. This is an impressive gateway site to everything related to journalism.


AmeriStat ( Population Reference Bureau and Social Science Data Analysis Network. Reviewed Apr. 12, 2001.

AmeriStat bills itself as a "one-stop source for U.S. population data" covering thirteen subject areas including "Marriage & Family," "Education," "Migration," Income & Poverty," and "Mortality." After choosing one of the broad subject areas, the user is given a list of topics that leads to text, charts, and tables. Much of the supporting data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau. Sources are listed at the bottom of the web page and key concepts are linked to definitions. The clearly written explanatory text that accompanies the data makes this site more helpful than most other statistics or population web sites which may actually cover more subject areas and/or present more data.

According to the Population Reference Bureau website, the AmeriStat website is no longer active. All AmeriStat content is available on the  Population Reference Bureau's website. (Noted September 2006)

  Artcyclopedia: the Fine Art Search Engine ( John Malyon, Artcyclopedia, Inc. Reviewed Apr. 4, 2001.

John Malyon, the creator of Artcyclopedia, says that he wants this site to become "the definitive and most effective guide to museum-quality fine art on the Internet." It is certainly true that a lot has been accomplished in the short amount of time since this website first went online in February 1999. The number of entries has steadily grown to 80,000 works by 7000 different artists on 700 leading arts sites. The criterion for inclusion in the Artcyclopedia is that the artist must be included in an arts museum collection somewhere in the world. The site's best search is by artist, but the user can also search for artworks, art museums, or browse by movement or medium. An artist search brings up links to online museums, image archives and articles about the artist. There are the ubiquitous links to and to purchase related merchandise, but otherwise the site is mercifully banner-free and the author pledges to keep it that way. ( Steven H. van Leeuwen. Reviewed Mar. 30, 2001. is "the preeminent Internet publisher of literature, reference and verse providing students, researchers and the intellectually curious with unlimited access to books and information on the web, free of charge." Included are works like Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, the King James Bible, and Simpson's Contemporary Quotations. The site is easy to navigate and the interface is clear and clean. Users may search by keyword across the entire contents of the site or search specific subjects or works. Resources are also listed under the categories "Reference," "Verse," "Fiction," or "Nonfiction." A summary or short note about the origin of the work is given above the search bar for each resource. Reference Librarians will find this full-text site and all that it contains to be very valuable. ( Baseball Think Factory. Reviewed Apr. 1, 2001. is the ultimate online baseball encyclopedia, providing "statistics from 1871 to the present for major league players, teams, and leagues." The Baseball-Reference web page is part of a larger set of sports web links from Post-season and managerial data are included and there is a travel guide in which you can locate baseball wherever you may go. The site contains a plethora of information not easily found on the more popular sports sites and, although the site uses static HTML, the information there can be quickly retrieved. This is the ideal web site for baseball buffs who want to find a quick fact and determine the winner of a wager.


Bureau of Labor Statistics ( Bureau of Labor Statistics. Reviewed Mar. 8, 2001.

As a division of the U.S. Department of Labor, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) web site presents up-to-date U.S. economic statistical information in a comprehensive and clearly organized format. Information is arranged under broad categories such as "Inflation and Spending" and "International Statistics." The latest numbers for the Consumer Price Index, unemployment rate and the Producer Price Index are prominently positioned on the home page. The BLS site provides past and current statistics for the U.S. economy as a whole, but individual state economic data can be obtained easily by clicking the state on a color-coded map. The gem of this web site is the "Economy at a Glance" section. A handy tool bar on the home page provides quick links to this section as well as 1999 MARSBEST winners Occupational Outlook Handbook and FEDSTATS. Overall, the Bureau of Labor Statistics site is a one-stop web resource for finding current U.S. economic data.


 CEO Express ( CEO Express Company. Reviewed Apr. 2, 2001.

CEO Express is a mega-site for all things news and business. The four major headings are: "Daily News & Info" (linking to a long list of news and magazine sites), "Business Research," "Office Tools & Travel," and "Breaktime." The Business Research section is extensive, including many sources for company information, stock market news, and business law and legislation. A sampling of other features on the site includes "Time & Weather," "Health," "Track Packages," and "Airlines." There is a CEOExpress Select service that personalizes your access to the site, but it requires registration and a $49.00 a year subscription fee. According to the publishers, the free part of the site will "continue to be available to all who want it for free." CEO Express does a good job of organizing a large amount of current business information for easy use.


The Cook's Thesaurus ( Lori Alden. Reviewed Apr. 3, 2001.

"The Cook's Thesaurus is a cooking encyclopedia that covers thousands of ingredients and kitchen tools. Entries include pictures, descriptions, synonyms, pronunciations, and suggested substitutions." This thesaurus is intended for a general audience providing a subject guide as well as a search feature. The search engine is fast and the quick-loading illustrations are helpful, as is the pronunciation guide. This site contains referrals and links to other sites, including agricultural extension sites, for further information. The combination of cooking know-how and simple design make this site excellent. (, Inc. Reviewed Mar. 8, 2001.

According to its mission statement,'s goal is "to empower automotive consumers by providing complete, clear, timely, accurate and unbiased information needed to make informed purchase and ownership decisions." The site provides easy access to safety information, road tests, advice, and evaluative information on buying a new or used vehicle via yellow quick link buttons and clearly designed sections throughout the home page. The True Market Value (TMV) Pricing Tools are undoubtedly the highlight of this online resource. The "TMV New Vehicle Pricing Calculator" and the "TMV Used Vehicle Appraiser" are both extremely useful for accurately calculating the best selling price for a new vehicle or determining the actual trade-in or personal selling price of a used car or truck. These values are determined by entering specific criteria that pertain to the vehicle. The "New Vehicle Pricing Calculator" also offers links to customer rebates. truly ranks as one of the best online automobile pricing and evaluation guides.


The Encyclopedia Mythica ( M.F. Lindemans, sponsored by Ultimum-IT. Reviewed Apr. 2, 2001.

Encyclopedia Mythica is "an encyclopedia on mythology, folklore, legends, and more." The Mythology section covers 23 different cultural mythologies ranging from Aboriginal to Roman with articles and definitions of varying length. Characters or events mentioned within one article are linked to the corresponding full-length article entry. Articles may be submitted by anyone, but there is a long list of contributing editors who verify and edit information accepted for the site. There is a 260-image gallery of mythological creatures and the genealogy tables (some of which are under construction) provide information for the major mythical families. The "Consorts and Offspring of Zeus" table is a good example of the helpful information provided in the genealogical section. A pronunciation aid is available from the "Areas" page under "Miscellanea," and the entire site is searchable. This is a great companion for readers of all levels studying mythology. U.S. General Services Administration. Reviewed Apr. 3, 2001.

This website is a "private-public partnership" with a vision to connect "the world to all U.S. Government information and services." It has a user-friendly interface with both a simple and advanced search function. In the center of the home page (in Yahoo style) is a subject guide listing topics such as "Money and Taxes" and "Business and Economy." These subject headings lead to more specific areas and links. This allows the user to locate information without necessarily knowing the government organization’s name. A sidebar on the home page also facilitates access by "featured subjects," "government by organization" links, "transactions, forms & services" links, and "contact your government" links. Users at all levels will find this site easy to navigate.


HiCitizen: Making Government Easy for You ( Imagitas, Inc. Reviewed Apr. 11, 2001. Web page no longer available.

Created by Imagitas, a privately owned government solutions company, HiCitizen is designed to provide easy access to a wide variety of forms and official government information. Users can either find information by choosing one of many available topics or by doing a custom search with the internal search engine. Sidebars feature the most popular forms as well as links to and special sections for seniors and students. There are links to sites for Spanish-speaking users and more will be added as they become available. A FAQ is also provided to help new users get acquainted with the site. There is a wide variety of practical information on this site and anyone who has experienced the frustration of trying to locate government-related information on the Internet will applaud it. [Record updated: 1/7/02]


Human Genome Project Information ( Human Genome Management Information System (HGMIS) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, part of the U.S. Department of Energy. Reviewed Mar. 30, 2001.

Although the main purpose of this award-winning governmental site is to disseminate "information about the U.S. and worldwide Human Genome Projects," it actually offers a wealth of general research information on genetics and bioethics. Clicking on the "About HGP" link will lead to yet more links, including a "Genetics 101" introduction, a glossary of terms, a list of acronyms, a FAQ section, and an extensive list of links to other genome web pages. From the home page, the "Ethical, Legal, Social Issues" section includes a very useful page on legislation and links to journal articles on court actions. Site organization is generally good with alphabetic quick links at the top of the dictionary pages for easy navigation. A drawback of the design is that some of the sections are just long lists of articles and are a little difficult to wade through. Overall, however, this site is an excellent starting point for research on the hot issues in bioethics.


Intelihealth ( URL: Intelihealth, a subsidary of Aetna, Inc. Reviewed Apr. 12, 2001.

InteliHealth’s stated mission is to "promote good health" by their efforts to "consumerize health information to make it accessible to the widest possible audience." More than 150 health organizations contribute to the site, including the Harvard Medical School, the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, and the National Institutes of Health. The site includes a medical dictionary, a database of medication information, a database of disease/condition profiles, and other features, including a "symptom scout." The disease/condition profiles are especially helpful, as they include features like "When to call your doctor." There is also an A-Z index to find topics. Daily tips appear, as well as featured "spotlight" topics. This site holds a wealth of well-organized health information for the layperson.


Librarians' Index to the Internet ( Librarian's Index to the Internet; Started by Carole Leita on the Berkeley Digital Library SunSITE. Currently maintained by Karen Schneider with the assistance of four staff members and more than 100 volunteers.Reviewed Mar. 7, 2001.

The Librarian's Index to the Internet describes itself as "a searchable, annotated subject directory of more than 7,900 Internet resources selected and evaluated by librarians for their usefulness to users of public libraries." The site features an extensive directory of 40 clickable subject topics ranging from "arts" to "women". Users can also locate relevant web sites by using a detailed subject heading index or by using the keyword search box. A keyword search groups the results into categories; e.g. "Best of...," "Directories," "Databases," and "Specific Resources." In addition, Librarian's Index to the Internet offers a free e-mail subscription to a current awareness service which features short annotations to the top 20 web resources added each week. This comprehensive online directory of critically evaluated web sites is an essential tool for any reference librarian.
[Record updated: 12/13/01]


Lives, the Biography Resource ( Kenneth P. Lanxner. Reviewed Apr. 5, 2001.

Lives, the Biography Resource is an extensive and well-organized biographical site that focuses on individuals as well as groups of people. This is mainly a listing of links to other biographical sites and a disclaimer states that the links to other sources are not necessarily reviewed for content. That said, however, the links reviewed appeared to have good credentials. Users can search by name or browse alphabetical lists. Special pages feature groups such as "African Americans," "Holocaust Survivors and Rescuers," and "Women." Because this site mainly covers people who are no longer living, it is a nice adjunct to sites like A&E’s that are oriented toward the contemporary scene and the arts and entertainment worlds. The site also contains an interesting section of articles on biographical criticism for scholars.

Content of site has changed. (Noted 2006)

Measure 4 Measure ( Judi Wolinsky. Reviewed Apr. 4, 2001.

Measure for Measure is "a collection of interactive sites on the web that estimate, calculate, evaluate, translate, etc.;" i.e., it is a collection of links to sites that actually perform calculations, doing the work for you. The site is divided into the categories: "Science/Math," "Health," "Finance," and "A Measure of Everything Else." Some examples of the calculators Measure 4 Measure links to include: Area Equivalents, to convert between square units; Capacitance, to convert between various units; calorie calculators and loan payment calculators. There are even calendar calculators and converters to translate dates between calendar systems. This site is updated and links are checked frequently. [Record updated: 12/21/01] ( Reviewed Apr. 9, 2001.

"No spin, just the facts" is the statement that adorns the header of this non-partisan web site that presents both sides of major national issues making the rounds in the media. Currently, the site includes these issues: Education, Social Security, Gun Control, Taxes, Foreign Policy, and Defense. After clicking on the chosen issue, there are links to articles, both pro and con, as well as a "Presidential Policy" link, "Facts & Figures" link, and links to think tanks under "Additional Sources." A subject-specific glossary is available on each issue web page. Except for the busy banners, this site is well designed and easy-to-use.


NoodleTools: Smart Tools for Smart Research ( Debbie Abilock, Librarian/Curriculum Coordinator, Damon Abilock, NoodleTools Web site design and development. Reviewed Mar. 26, 2001.

NoodleTools combines NoodleBib, an interactive MLA-style bibliography composer, and NoodleQuest, a multiple-choice template of questions to develop appropriate search strategies for a research project. Another section, called NoodleLinks, is a "database of academic bibliographies" that appears to be in the formative stage and NoodleBoard is a group of forums where users can ask questions and share ideas. NoodleBib has an extensive list of citation types (31 items) including electronic formats. The NoodleQuest form asks the user questions that address the type of information sought and the level of the user’s expertise. The user chooses the options and obtains guidance as to where to start in a search for information on the internet. NoodleQuest is a great tool for the novice or younger user who needs help getting started on research and NoodleBib certainly simplifies the process of creating a MLA-style bibliography.


Online! Citation Styles ( Bedford/St. Martin's. Reviewed Apr. 2, 2001.

Online! provides citation styles for the total range of online information: World Wide Web site, Email message, Web discussion forum posting, Listserv message, Newsgroup message, Real-time communication, Telnet, FTP, and gopher sites. Detailed descriptions and examples of each are given for MLA, APA, Chicago, and CBE. The guide is helpful in defining distinctions between citing the whole site versus citing one page or part of a site, and citing personal versus professional sites. The various types of web publications are clearly explained. This site would be most useful for students of all ages working on papers that involve the vast and varied elements of the online environment. Public Opinion Online ( The Polling Report, Inc. Reviewed Mar. 29, 2001., the digital offspring of the print publication "The Polling Report," calls itself "an independent, nonpartisan resource on trends in American public opinion." Of interest to students, journalists and everybody interested in American politics, this site features national poll highlights on subjects like "Politics and Policy" (President, Congress, Issues, Elections), "Business/Economy" (Consumer confidence, Investing) and "The American Scene" (Sports, Hollywood, Work and play, Health). It is updated whenever new polls are released. Additional data, including state-by-state, presidential, congressional, and gubernatorial polls, plus analyses by leading pollsters, are available to subscribers. is a handy resource that rounds up these elusive data from a variety of sources and keeps them all in one place.

Sources: Their Use and Acknowledgement ( Dartmouth College. Reviewed Apr. 4, 2001.

The Sources web site was prepared for the instruction and use of Dartmouth undergraduate students and is set up so that it can be used as a handbook to consult when writing papers. The preface includes an excellent discussion of why the student must cite sources, with clear examples of the different kinds of plagiarism. Quotes from Dartmouth’s Student Handbook make the point even more clearly. The large "Examples" section demonstrates the format for bibliographies and footnotes, following the APA, MLA and Science citation styles, as well as MLA’s note style. A bibliography of resources is provided for those wishing to use other styles. There is a good alphabetical site index as well as a table of contents. A FAQ section provides some examples of special problems, such as works of art and computer programs. It is important to note that electronic sources are well represented in this very useful writing resource.


Sperling's BestPlaces ( Bert Sperling. Reviewed Apr. 2, 2001.

Comparing two cities in order to choose a place to live, work or retire is simplified thanks to Sperling’s BestPlaces. Statistics for categories such as crime, climate, cost of living, and schools are available for many cities. The "Find Your Best Place" link offers two versions of this comparison tool: a quick version with fifteen categories and a full version with forty categories. Under the "Reviews" link, evaluations of guides developed by other authors are given, and a bibliography of recent articles about rating places is located under the "Articles" link. Bert Sperling developed his comparison software in 1985 and has been refining it ever since; he develops "Best Places" guides for many publications including Money magazine.


State and Local Government on the Net: A guide to government sponsored Internet sites ( Piper Resources. Reviewed Apr. 12, 2001.

This helpful site contains over 6000 links to U.S. state and local government web pages, as well as to those for American Samoa, District of Columbia, Guam, Tribal Governments, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Also included are links to multi-state resources, selected U.S. federal resources, and national organizations. The date of last update is included for each. Information for each state is presented in a standardized format and includes links as available to the home page and other related sites. To navigate the site, the user can either link from an alphabetic list of states and organizations or do a simple Boolean search on the search form. Criteria for inclusion are clearly listed and include those whose servers are controlled by government agencies and those with obvious state, city, or county governmental domain names. Searchers can rely on this site for official resources. [Record updated: 12/20/01]


Statistical Resources on the Web ( Grace York, University of Michigan Library Documents Center. Reviewed Apr. 2, 2001.

This University of Michigan Documents Center site is a comprehensive portal to statistics. Statistical Resources on the Web includes information on agriculture, business and industry, consumers, cost of living, demographics, economics, education, energy, environment, finance and currency, foreign economics, foreign governments, foreign trade, government finances, health, housing, labor, military, politics, science, sociology, transportation and weather. Frames and no-frames versions of the database are available. The arrangement of the site, with an alphabetical "quick jump" index and a prominent directory of topics under broad headings, makes it easily navigable. A site map is also provided and there is a choice of search engines. It’s obvious at a glance why this well-designed site has won numerous awards.


Telephone Directories on the Web ( Robert Hoare, creator and Webmaster; a service of Infobel (Brussels). Reviewed Apr. 2, 2001.

Telephone Directories on the Web is an index of online phone books comprising "400 links to Yellow Pages, White Pages, Business Directories, Email Addresses and Fax Listings from over 170 countries." This site is notable for its international coverage and claims to be the most complete index of online phone books. The site is organized first by continent and then by country and very easy to navigate. The links are updated regularly. Additional resources include websites about area codes worldwide and E-mail address directories. This is a handy bookmark for ready reference lookup at the desk or for anyone who regularly needs contact information.


U.S. Census Bureau ( United States Department of Commerce. Reviewed Apr. 2, 2001.

This is the place to go for quick access to U.S. demographic information. The U.S. Census Bureau site continues to improve as more and more of the 2000 census information becomes available. The "State & County Quick Facts" link helps to easily locate information such as education and income levels of a given state. The "Access Tools" section helps users navigate the census data. For example, in "Access Tools" the "Census Tract Street Locator" allows the user to very quickly identify the tract the user lives in by simply entering his/her address. The "American Fact Finder" helps users to easily obtain particular information by state, county, county subdivision, or even a general "place." In addition, the entire Census site is keyword-searchable. Considering the difficulties of using census data in the past, this site is a remarkable asset to those who need census information quickly.


WebElements Periodic Table ( Mark Winter, University of Sheffield Dept. of Chemistry. Reviewed Apr. 4, 2001.

WebElements is an award-winning online periodic table. There is a Scholar Edition for students as well as a Professional Edition. Researchers click on the symbol for any element on the periodic table displayed on the home page. Information given for each element includes the name for the element in several languages, essentials (name, symbol, atomic weight, etc.), description, and isolation. Sidebars provide well-known compounds that contain the element and more detailed information on the element’s properties and history. The Scholar Edition, at, provides more pictures demonstrating element structures and periodic properties. Both versions are excellent teaching tools as well as helpful ready reference resources.


Wordsmyth: The Educational Dictionary-Thesaurus ( Wordsmyth Collaboratory. Reviewed Apr. 2, 2001.

Wordsmyth meshes the functions of a dictionary and a thesaurus with powerful and flexible search capabilities. This database is designed to work the way people think. A spell-like button makes it easy to look up words even if you aren't sure how they are spelled. The simple search mode offers quick and easy lookups, while the advanced mode allows the user to specify which fields will be displayed in the results. An interactive result page is returned including lists of synonyms for which definitions are just a click away. Example sentences and phrases, and indicators of context and grammar are included. This excellent dictionary-thesaurus tool will allow those who utilize it to express their ideas more concisely. (, Inc.; content from various commercial publishers. Reviewed Apr. 12, 2001.

This database of electronic reference sources, billing itself as a "reference engine," is a great place to go for a quick lookup on many topics. links free reference works from a number of publishers including Oxford University Press, Bloomsbury, and Macmillan. Although the resources collected at are not likely to be the current ARBA Best Books, they do provide a useful, quick resource for looking up quotations, terms, or subjects. The researcher can either search the whole database by keyword or choose a specific subject area. Choosing an entry from the search results brings up the full text of the entry, along with cross-references and adjacent references in that particular resource. is an excellent starting point for the kind of question that is likely to be answered in an encyclopedia, thesaurus, or dictionary. ( Dr. Robert Beard, and an Advisory Council of Experts. Reviewed Apr. 12, 2001.

" provides the most comprehensive and authoritative portal for language [and] language-related products and services on the web with more than 1800 dictionaries with more than 250 languages." An Advisory Council of Experts provides "guidance in the development, acquisition, and maintenance of the dictionaries." The Endangered Language Repository section has been created to highlight world efforts to preserve the many languages and dialects that are threatened with extinction. This site aims to "provide ways of building vocabularies, studying grammar, practicing spoken and written languages," "provide scientific information about language as well as various forms of language play designed to build language skills," and meet any linguistic need. Although the home page is a little crowded, it is generally easy to use and navigate. There is a "Quick Look-up" conveniently placed at the top for searching a word either in the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary or Thesaurus., with its easy-to-remember URL, should become a favorite.


Contributors: LeiLani Freund and Lori Morse, Co-Chairs; Amy Williams Boykin, Michael Ciccone, Andrea Copeland, Andrea Delumeau, Jennifer Heise, Carolyn Larson, Natalie McDonough, Timothy McDonough, Mimi Pappas, Ann Robinson, Carol Rusinek, and Deleyne Wentz.