How to Hire a Research Assistant – Free of Charge!

librarian as research assistantEver have a difficult topic you need researching assistance on? Need an obscure figure or statistic unearthed for a project for work or paper for school? The Web of little help and you keep spinning your wheels? You may need to hire a research assistant. But, there is no need to shell out the mega-bucks that big companies and organizations spend. Your researcher is just down the street. 

Lately, I’ve been spending some time looking into scholarships and grants for my step-son who has just received an acceptance letter for college. And let me say – it’s kind of a daunting task! Ironically there are tons of scholarships out there – and many of them go unclaimed every year (some because they have such strict criteria to qualify). I managed to find a few online resources – but have you ever thought about asking your local librarian? Yes, that pleasant lady (or gentleman) at your library? She’s there to help.



Mainly due to pride, I rarely think of asking the librarian whenever I have something that I want to look-up or research. But, this is exactly what they get paid for and LOVE to do. Like archaeologists, they love digging for hard-to-find artifacts and bringing them to the light.

Librarians only know how to find books – right?

This is what I’ve always thought. But books aren’t the only thing that libraries house these days. Did you know you can get access to many of the following via your library?

  • Periodicals
  • E-books
  • Legal documents
  • Business information
  • Energy meters (to check high energy appliances at your home)
  • Old yearbooks
  • Art for rent
  • Census information
  • Ancestry records

This is a lot of things you can get at our area library. And now, with things going digital – the abilities to find whatever your little researching heart desires.

Databases galore

Our county library has paid subscriptions to hundreds of databases on all sorts of subjects.  And with a library card and some gumption, you can have access to many of these yourself.

Remember my search for the scholarships? One of the tools I have utilized is called the Gale Directory. This directory has all sorts of information on brands & their companies, American wholesalers & distributors, trade shows worldwide, and scholarships, fellowships and loans.

Just by doing a word search on the subject the step-son wants to study – 70 different scholarships came up that he might be able to apply for.

Libraries have access to these databases because of your tax dollars. And, if they don’t make them available to you – check with your new free research assistant if they have access.

The following are a few other  databases you may be able to get information from:

  • HeritageQuest – American genealogical sources, primary sources, local and family histories, images, finding aids. Coverage from late 1700’s.
  • Job and Career Accelerator – Explore occupations, search for jobs, build a resume. Tools to Get Hired section offers tips for the job search process, including filling out an application, learning computer software, and job interviewing.
  • Gale Legal Forms – Officially approved forms covering bankruptcy, bill of sale, contracts, divorce, employment, incorporation, landlord/tenant, living wills, name change, power of attorney, real estate, taxes and wills.
  • National Climate Data Center – Official, authoritative weather records at the local, state and national levels, for both current and historical time periods.
  • Corporate Affiliations – Business profiles for major public and private companies worldwide. Search results include recent news, executives, shell companies, competitors, outside service firms, and financial information.
So, as you can see – you can probably find out a lot of information through your local librarian and/or library. And, best of all – it’s free! What have you been able to unearth through your librarian/library?

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3 comments

  1. Allison says:

    DVDs free rental, books on tape, puppets, bike lock (to be used at the library) and lots of services like tax help, financial planning (it’s an organized event).

  2. Patti says:

    About a year ago, I was thrilled when I discovered that my local library offered e-books and audiobooks online. I can “borrow” them by downloading them – they all have a set expiration date, which is fine since it gives me a deadline for making sure that I actually listen to or read the book.

    The concept of using the librarian as a research assistant is something that was right in front of me (literally) every time I went into the library, yet I never really thought of it! They have always been more than helpful anytime I needed assistance finding a book, etc., so I’m sure they would be happy to assist with either research or directing me toward where I can access the research myself.

    Thank you! Looking forward to reading more great posts. :)

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