Building a Digital Directory Library

4 min read

| By Holly Hibner |

Some of the most commonly-asked questions at library reference desks can be answered quickly and easily with Gale Directory Library. In Michigan, we are fortunate to have access to three very useful directories through the Michigan eLibrary, but any library can build a collection of directories from an impressive list. In this way, the Gale Directory Library gives control of content to the libraries, making this a completely relevant resource for each library’s patrons.

The Michigan eLibrary Gale Directory Library includes Ward’s Business Directory of Private and Public Companies in Canada and Mexico, Business Rankings Annual, and Encyclopedia of Associations. These sources can be cross-searched simultaneously, saving users valuable time and ensuring the broadest results the first time.

For example, in a recent Medicare-related program at my library, there was a discussion of the company Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and its change from a non-profit to a for-profit company. Searching “Blue Cross and Blue Shield” in the Gale Directory Library resulted in several lists of business rankings in a variety of categories, as well as the organization’s entry in the Encyclopedia of Associations. The results were in order of relevance, but can also be sorted by publication date, alphabetical, or directory title.

Lists can also be exported. Searching “health insurance” in the Encyclopedia of Associations, then exporting the list to email resulted in an Excel file with all of the information in each directory entry nicely organized into fields that could then be sorted any way I wanted. The same search results, exported as a “people list” resulted in a list of people named in those directory entries (in this case, a list of CEOs, presidents, and vice presidents of the companies named in the results list). A new enhancement to this product allows users to export up to 1,000 records at a time, and to combine Common, Expanded, and People exports.

What a great way to create a mailing list!

There are 23 directories to choose from when building your Gale Directory Library collection. Titles like Market Share Reporter, Brands and Their Companies, Consultants and Consulting Organizations Directory, and Business Rankings Annual could be just the ticket to add to a library’s business collection.

Universities may find Scholarships, Fellowships & Loans and National Faculty Directory useful, while public libraries may gravitate more toward Medical and Health Information Directory and Government Research Directory more relevant. Knowing what kinds of questions your library users ask, and what kind of research they typically do, make the customizable nature of this collection extremely beneficial.

From a collection development perspective, libraries buy digital directories, unlike other databases where libraries subscribe to content. This is unique because once you own a directory, your access to it remains even if you buy a new edition. In this way, historical data and trend analysis are possible. Some directories even come with backfile content so you can instantly search for historic information.

Another recent enhancement to the Gale Directory Library platform allows users to click on cover images for any title in the collection to search individual editions or an entire series.

Other updates to the Gale Directory Library platform align it with the interface used in other Gale databases. The option to download entries and exports to Google Drive or Microsoft One Drive, the ability to highlight entries and save notes, the inclusion of citation tools, and the ability to share entries and exports via email are familiar options to Gale customers, and happy surprises to new users.

The bottom line for librarians and library users is that the Gale Directory Library is incredibly easy to use, consistent in functionality with other Gale products, and unique in content options. Each library can assemble a set of digital directories that works best for their own collection goals. The content is from Gale’s time-honored and trusted directories that many of us have used in print for years, but now integrates the cross-search interface to enhance the research experience.

Ready to build a digital directory library for your patrons? Request a trial today!


Holly Hibner Mary Kelly

Holly is the Adult Services Coordinator at the Plymouth District Library in Plymouth, MI. She has a mild obsession with collection quality (ok, maybe not so mild) and can be found at the Readers’ Advisory desk dreaming up read-alikes.

Holly, along with her co-worker Mary, are the authors of “Making a Collection Count: a holistic approach to library collection management. They also tweet at @awfullibbooks and blog at


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