Exploring a library website’s travel resources

iStockphoto of Popocatepetl Volcano in Mexico

Planning a trip? Gathering information for travel – either business or pleasure — can be overwhelming and exhausting. Before you leave on your next trip, plan a stop at your public library’s reference website.

Online library databases are tremendous resources for travel information. It’s free — all you need is a library card and pin number to log on to a world of information. Find out what you need to know about your destination before you depart: Learn about a country’s currency, languages, customs, food and lodging accommodations and current events by using your library’s geographical or news databases.

I discovered that an immense amount of travel resources are available through Chandler Public Library’s website at a recent library volunteer appreciation event. One of the library staff members gave an informative and entertaining presentation about the library’s online systems and travel resources. She demonstrated several travel research tools and I’ve highlighted them here:

Global Road Warrior provides users with basics about a particular country. A “country snapshot” will allow you to take a quick glimpse of a particular country’s geography, climate, languages, religions, history and current political and economic conditions. Using tools on the home page, one can search by keywords. For example, a search using the words, “travel warnings” will produce 121 different countries where advisories are in effect. Use discretion, however, some of this information appears to be dated. You may need to crosscheck this data with another website such as the State Department travel advisory page.

With Masterfile Premier, you may need to experiment with a search. It’s a little trickier, but a basic knowledge of Boolean methods should allow you searching success. There are several periodical databases worth a deep search. Help tools are there to guide you. For example, I typed in, “Mexico volcanoes” and found an April 2012 New York Times article about Popocatepetl, an active volcano in central Mexico. After I found what I needed, I had several options: save, print, email or listen. That’s right, I could listen to the article being read aloud. Granted, It sounded like a choppy Siri reading on an iPhone, but at least I could hear how to pronounce Popocatepetl. (By the way, it’s poh-poh-kah-TEH-peh-til)

But you may not need pronunciation tools if you sign up to learn a foreign language with links to Mango or Rocket Language learning tools on the Library’s travel resource page. With these resources, you can be ready to speak the language before your upcoming travels abroad.

A click on Gale Travel Research collection button will bring you to a database of DK Eyewitness Travel Guides. Refine your search by keywords. I typed in Popocatepetl and up popped a couple of article listings. I clicked on an article called, “Around Mexico City” from the DK Mexico Travel Guide, then I simply word-searched on the page in text format to find a reference about the volcano. That provided the page number, so I just went back to the pdf format of the article and entered the exact page number. That forwarded me right to that page from the DK guidebook! I could print out a pdf of the page or return to the text version and save the article to my eReader or email it to myself. Now I will have the information stored about Popocatepetl on my device for my next visit to Mexico City. It’s good to have a backup in case I’m away from an Internet connection.

Chandler Public Library’s travel resource page also makes available shortcuts to sites about passport services, currency converters, distance calculators, worldwide weather, as well as international ATM locations for Visa and MasterCard. You also can find links to all the popular guidebook and travel magazine sites: Frommer’s, Fodor’s, Lonely Planet, Rick Steves’ Europe and Insiders’ Guides. Everything you need to plan a statewide trip is here: Arizona tourism information links: ArizonaGuide.com, azstateparks.com, and transportation (airlines, highways, train travel) links.

Many public libraries provide access to this information; I’m just really pleased that Chandler Public Library has made it so concise and easy to use.

Readers: How do you research your international travels? Anyone still using an agent for anything other than cruising?

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