Laura Beals on Library Access and Literature Organization

Hello! I am Laura Beals and I am an internal evaluator at Jewish Family and Children’s Service (JF&CS). JF&CS is a large nonprofit social service agency located just outside of Boston, MA. As our programs span a range of areas—parents and children, people with disabilities and mental illness, community services, and seniors—I often need to do background reading during and throughout the evaluation process. While the web in general has many useful resources, reviewing academic literature is also an important step. As we are not connected to an academic institution, however, accessing articles was difficult, frustrating, and time-consuming.

Rad Resources:

  • The Boston Public Library offers eCards for individuals who live, work, or study in MA. With an eCard, I can access their databases and journals, including their Google Scholar, which links directly to their holdings. I am not certain how many states have similar models, but most likely, your local library also offers electronic access to databases and journals. So, if you are struggling with how to access academic literature, check out options from your local and state library system!

Now that you have access to the resources, how do you organize? While everyone probably has their own methods, perhaps honed during graduate school, there are two (affordable!) tools that I use extensively—Zotero and Evernote.

  • Zotero is a citation management tool. Some of my favorite features include that it allows you to:
    • Save a citation right from a browser
    • Attach files of the articles to the citation record
    • Add in-text citations to documents, with the Word plugin, and with a click of a button, generate a bibliography formatted to whatever style guide you need (e.g., APA, Chicago, etc.)
    • Evernote is an electronic notebook system. Some of my favorite features include that it allows you to:
      • Clip interesting resources as you find them on the web
      • Tag notes with important keywords
      • Share the notebooks with others
      • Send emails from Outlook to Evernote
      • Access on the web, as a desktop application, and on mobile devices


In Evernote, I have a notebook for each project I am working on, plus ones for “Evaluation Learning,” “Data Visualization,” “Survey Development,” etc. Many of the notebooks I share with project team members so that we can all access. My notebooks include resource web clips, meeting notes, email notes, etc.—and since searching will span all notes, I can find things quickly. I have converted my note-taking to almost exclusively electronically in Evernote—I bring my iPad to all meetings and take notes with the Evernote app.

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