Skokie Public Library's Guide to...
Gale Virtual Reference Library

Gale Virtual Reference Library is a database of full text reference sources for research. Skokie Public Library’s subscription contains six reference publications, formerly available only in print and now fully searchable online. These publications are American Decades, Cities of the World, Encyclopedia of World Biography, Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, Geo-Mark: The World Geographical Encyclopedia, and Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations. The database is updated as the publications are revised in new editions.

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Why Use Gale Virtual Reference Library?

Use Gale Virtual Reference Library to search for historical, cultural, and political information on each decade of the twentieth century, for biographical information on important and interesting people from all over the world in every time period, for substantial essays on ethnic, cultural, and religious groups in the United States, and for information on geographic, cultural, and political conditions in hundreds of cities and countries worldwide.

The following are examples of the kinds of questions that can be answered using Gale Virtual Reference Library:

  • I’m looking for information on Chinua Achebe.
  • I’m doing a paper on Armenian immigrants to the United States. Do we have any information?
  • What are the major cities of Chile?
  • I need all the information I can find about Zimbabwe – the geographical features of the country, ethnic groups, religion, history, everything – for a research paper.
  • I need some information on American fashion trends in the 1950s.
  • My doctor tells me I have vasculitis.  Can I find some general information on this condition?


Gale Virtual Reference Library may be searched using Basic or Advanced Search.  Use the Basic Search for broad topical searches, and the Advanced Search to narrow an overly long result list. 

Basic Search

To use the Basic Search, simply enter a word or two describing your topic into the search box in the center of the screen, select a search option, and click on Search image.

  • You may choose to search for those words in the title or headline of the article; since the titles of the articles generally reflect the topic, this is a good way to start your search. 
  • You may also choose to search by keyword.  This option will search titles, introductory text, authors, the first fifty words in the article, and the index terms that have been assigned to articles.  This is a broader search than the document title search.
  • Finally, you may choose the full text option. This looks for any word or words within the entire text of all documents in the database, including in the fields of information included in the Keyword search. This is a good search to use if you are looking for a particular line of text or an unusual phrase. 

Advanced Search

Advanced Search allows you to perform a complex search choosing multiple fields, limiting by date, publication title, articles containing images, and broad subject area.

Tips for More Effective Searching


  • Use an asterisk (*) to search for any number of characters: typing document* in the search box will bring back results containing the words document, documents, documentation, etc.
  • Use a question mark (?) to stand for one character: typing wom?n in the search box will return results containing the words woman and women.
  • Finally, use the exclamation mark (!) to stand for one character or no characters. This is useful if you want both the plural and the singular forms of a word but not any other form: document and documents, but not documentation.


Use proximity operators to help find words close together in an article.

  • Use the W operator to search for nearby words in a particular order. 
  • Use the N operator to search for nearby words in any order.

Special Features

Gale Virtual Reference Library includes bibliography-ready citations for every article in the database.  Students may choose MLA or APA citation style, or simply the plain text of the citation.  These citations may be printed, emailed, or downloaded as part of each article, or may be exported to Endnote, ProCite, or Reference Manager.

Gale Virtual Reference Library also has excellent in-context help Help image available at the top right of the screen.

Handling Results

Articles may be printed, emailed to your account, or downloaded to a disk, either one at a time or in a group, using the Marked Items Saved image list.

  • To print your single article or your Marked Items list, choose the Print Print imageicon to reformat your article for printing, then choose the print button from the file menu.
  • To email the article or the Marked Items list, choose the Email Email image icon.
  • To download, choose the Download Download imageicon.

Gale Virtual Reference Library also features InfoMarks Infomark image, a way of marking the specific URL of any given search screen, result list, article, or Marked Items list.  InfoMarks can then be bookmarked, saved as a web page, or emailed. The InfoMark feature only works if whoever accesses the InfoMark has access to the specific publication or publications that the InfoMark refers to. When in doubt, print, email, or download your article or Marked Items list rather than use the InfoMark feature.

Other Resources

Skokie Public Library has an extensive reference collection both in print and online.  Many reference sources that were once only in print are now also available online.  These are just a few examples.

  • eLibrary allows you to search dozens of reference books on many subjects, as well as magazines, newspapers, and television and radio transcripts.
  • Literature Resources from Gale contains biographical and critical information on authors and literature, and is based on several respected and useful series of literary reference books.
  • MagillOnLiterature contains plot summaries and literary criticism from reference books such as Masterplots, Cyclopedia of World Authors, the Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, as well as Magill's Literary Annuals and Magill Book Reviews.
  • The Oxford English Dictionary Online allows you to search all twenty volumes of the second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, all three volumes of the Additions Series, as well as draft entries from the as yet unpublished third edition.

To access Skokie Public Library's print reference collection, or for help using any of our online sources, please visit the Library’s Reference Department in person, call us at 847.673.3733, or .