You're at the reference desk and a student asks for the biography of some obscure political figure. You check the usual print sources and can't find any references. Your school either can't afford an expensive online database, or perhaps you do subscribe to one, but the service is down for the evening. Out of luck, right? Not. Namebase will rescue (and impress) both you and your students.
What makes this database unique is the collection of nearly 200,000 citations. The service is provided by Public Information Research, Inc., formed in 1989 by former anti-war protesters, Daniel Brandt and Steve Badrich. Citations cover individual and organizational proper names from approximately 500 "investigative" books published since 1962, and thousands of periodicals from 1973. Besides political figures, Namebase cites anyone concerned with the international intelligence community, U.S. foreign policy, crime, and business. Sources concentrate on the post World War era, and emphasize left of center, conspiracy theory, and spy-tell-all publications.
To login to the telnet database, simply type "namebase" at the login prompt. Options include searches by regular name, proximity (related names), source (works cited), and by country. Additional features include the NameBase NewsLine, providing selected essays on names in the news. Each entry includes a citation, along with a two to three paragraph abstract and sketch of the named individual.
The only serious drawback to the telnet database is the telnet protocol itself. For ready reference, most cybernauts will find the web access far more accessible, though less powerful. The only difference between the two versions are the number of options. The web site only provides name search capability.
The web site also includes the "Essays from NameBase NewsLine," and one additional feature, a subject-oriented list of over 400 book reviews. The essays and reviews will undoubtedly interest many, but lack the usefulness of the citations. The essays, however, are well footnoted. In most cases, essays and reviews maintain the focus on political conspiracy, counter-culture, and gonzo journalism. Sample titles include, "Cold Warriors Woo Generation X," "Mind Control and the Secret State," and "The Decline of American Journalism."
The book reviews cover an equally intriguing array of topics, beginning with Academia, and ending with the Vietnam War. In between lie such topics as Assassinations, Elites, Nazis, Organized Crime, Religions and Cults, Repression, Scandals, and even UFOs.
Perhaps the best feature of Namebase, from a librarian's viewpoint, is the large number of citations. From these cites students may easily and quickly prepare bibliographies. For a free service, Namebase is quite a useful resource.