Librarian Superheroes Use Journal Alerts!

Jeannie.Standal's picture

It is a little known fact that Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Batgirl, started her career as a librarian. It's true! Librarians can become superheroes outside Gotham City, too, by providing the right resources and information at the right time. Journal alerts are a great tool for the school librian's utility belt to achieve superhero status at school!

Here is how it works:

An email alert allows a user to send articles on a particular topic to people who are interested in that topic.  For example, say there is a teacher who is planning a unit on climate change and s/he is looking for the most up-to-date information. The school libriarian can set up an alert that sends a message when an article on climate change is published in the database with a link to the article. The alert can be sent to the teacher directly or to the librarian, who can then pass it on to the interested party after checking that it is indeed on topic.  Slick!

Sometimes teachers or students may wish for a magazine or journal subscription, but the price might be out of reach. There is a good chance the publication is available through LiLI, but it can be difficult to remember when each issue becomes available.  The school librarian can easily set up a journal alert that will announce when the new issue is available in Ebsco and send the link to the teacher.

It's a good idea to set up the tool so that the email comes to the librarian, then is forwarded to the teacher using the library's or the librarian's email address.  That way it won't be mistaken for junk mail or get caught in the spam file. Some may not appreciate more mail in the inbox, so it might be good to forward the first one with a note asking if it is helpful to send more on the topic. 

Here are two wonderfully short tutorials from Ebsco on how to get started:

Email alert for new articles:

Journal alert in Ebscohost:

Once you get started, it is quick and easy to set up these tools, and it is also easy to disable them when they are no longer needed.

Other free tools to help make life easier are Explora's subject sets (through Ebsco) that have articles already grouped together for librarians, teachers, or students. For example, a set of resources on Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities can be found under the Arts and Literature Heading on the Explora homepage at, along with dozens of other artists, authors, and works.  Likewise, under Science and Math there are articles under fantasy sports leagues and math. There are hundreds of topics ready for exploration.

Similarly, on the Library of Congress website under the Especially for Teachers section, Primary Source Sets are ready for student analysis on subjects ranging from Jamestown to baseball.  All manner of materials are there including, but not limited to letters, photographs, sheet music, and political cartoons. Been through all the sets at the Library of Congress?  There is a whole new set of sets at DPLA!

Dive in and enjoy superhero status!