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African-American Database Gains National Attention

African-American Database Gains National Attention

Newswise — Genealogists, researchers and history buffs nationwide continue to benefit from a one-of-a kind database of African-American history found online. Recently the continuing popularity of the database, the University of Kentucky Libraries' Notable Kentucky African Americans (NKAA) Database, has even garnered the site the 2009 Gale Cengage Learning Award for Excellence in Reference and Adult Library Services. The national honor recognizes the database as an imaginative and unique resource to meet patrons' reference needs.

The NKAA Database, sponsored by UK Libraries, is believed to be the first database developed to provide biographical and historical information concerning African-Americans in a particular U.S. state. The main focus of the NKAA Database is to provide information about African-Americans in and from Kentucky. It is a free electronic collection of data about people, places, and events in the Commonwealth, along with details that reveal the extent of their influence well beyond the state border.

Since the database's inception six years ago, the NKAA Database has grown and been adapted to meet research needs and to accommodate voluminous contributions made by both local library patrons and researchers across the country. The information stored in the NKAA Database even became the primary resource for a series of articles celebrating Black History Month published by the Lexington Herald-Leader, one of Kentucky's largest newspapers.

"Once the database went live, we started to hear from people all over Kentucky, the United States, and some international patrons as well," said Reinette F. Jones, diversity and multicultural activities librarian and one of two NKAA administrators.

The NKAA Database has been able to serve such a broad audience thanks to a user-friendly search interface that lists entries not only alphabetically, but also by subject, date or keyword.

The database was selected for the Cengage Award not only for its role as an important educational tool, but also for its unique patron-driven approach to African-American history both within and beyond the state of Kentucky. Since its inception, users have helped to grow the resource through their data contributions.

“The database represents the power of a community’s collective knowledge and the impact such a resource can have on those accessing information both locally and across the country,” said Anne Behler, committee chair for the Cengage Award.

The recent national recognition for the database is exciting for its administrators.
"When your colleagues, who do the same kind of work, recognize you, it's certainly the best reward you can get," noted Robert A. Aken II, Web administration librarian and NKAA administrator.

Aken and Jones will collect the Cengage Award at the Reference and User Services Association Awards Ceremony and Reception at the American Library Association Annual Conference this July in Chicago. The award includes a citation and a cash prize sponsored by Gale Cengage Learning.

The award-winning Notable Kentucky African Americans Database can be found online at


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