Skokie Public Library's Guide to...
World Book Online

World Book Online contains all of the articles from the popular print version of the encyclopedia, in both English and Spanish.  This source also provides access to five hundred maps available in the World Book Atlas, and to 248,000 definitions available in the
World Book Dictionary.  In addition to these sources, World Book Online contains links to current web sites and magazine articles, and features a continuously updated current news section.  A Back in Time feature traces a place or subject as it was covered in past World Book Yearbooks, and a Today in History feature discusses significant events that happened on a day’s date in the past.

World Book Logo
[space]Available everywhere with your
Skokie Public Library card

Why Use World Book Online?

Use World Book Online to get started with a research project, to find current, authoritative information on many different topics quickly, or to refresh your memory on a certain subject.  World Book Online can also be used to find games, puzzles, and recreational reading on nonfiction topics.

The following are examples of the kinds of questions that can be answered using World Book Online:

  • What was the population of the United States in 1930?
  • I need information on pirates.
  • Could you help me find a brief biography of Annie Oakley?
  • Where is Burkina Faso?
  • Do you have any information on life in the United States during the Civil War?


World Book Online can be searched in several ways.  If you are looking for a specific type of information, you may search particular reference sources by using the yellow tabs marked Atlas, Dictionary, and Encyclopedia in the upper left corner of the page.

If you would like all of the information available on a topic, you may either use the yellow Search World Book box in the upper right side of the screen, or select the Search tab on the left side of the screen.  The Search World Book box is a Basic Search, and the Search tab leads you to an Advanced Search.

Basic Search

To use the Basic Search, simply a word or two describing your topic into the search box and press the green “GO” button Green Go Button.  The basic search will automatically search for both the singular and plural forms of the words that you enter, in order to give you the most comprehensive list of results.  So, for example, if you search “Woman rights” you will retrieve results on women’s rights, the first woman governor, equal rights, and woman suffrage.

Advanced Search

The Advanced Search provides more search options that will help you to retrieve only the most relevant results. Access the Advanced Search by clicking on the Search tab on the left side of the screen.

One way to use the advanced search is to enter words related to your topic in the search box at the bottom of the page, and then select limiters from the lists at the top of the page.  For example, if you are searching for information on global warming, type “Global warming” into the search box.  Next, check limiters in the boxes above to ensure that you will receive only the most relevant results.  If you are just beginning your research, you could decide to ask for many types of information: encyclopedia articles, behind the headlines information, special reports, web sites, and research guides.  If you have already started your research and you only need specific types of information, you might want to narrow your search to only special reports, pictures, maps, or tables.

Another way to limit your search results is to use the “Search for a Word or Phrase” feature in the Advanced Search box.  Here you can decide to search for a phrase, such as “Italian art.”   You could also decide to search for any of the words in Italian art, which would retrieve search results for the word Italian and for the word art.  Using these limiters will allow you to obtain only the information that best relates to your search topic.

Boolean Search

The Boolean Search box in the lower left corner of the Advanced Search screen provides another method for limiting your searching.  Boolean searching allows you to search for several terms and to determine the relationships between the search terms.  So, if you are continuing your research on global warming, you can decide that you would like to search for global warming AND polar bears, which will retrieve all information available that mentions both global warming and polar bears.  You could also decide to search for global warming OR polar bears, which would pull up all information on global warming and as well as all the information available on polar bears.  Finally, you could determine that you would like information on global warming, but that you are not interested in polar bears.  Searching global warming NOT polar bears would pull up everything on global warming that does not contain information on polar bears.


The Advanced Search page also allows you to browse the content of World Book Online. You can browse various areas of the reference center by title or by subject.  This will allow you, for instance, to look through an alphabetical list of all of the tables, maps, or pictures available, to see all of the Back in Time pieces from a particular year, or to see all of the encyclopedia articles available within a subject area such as Humanities.

Search Tips

  • The Basic Search box will retrieve more search results than the Advanced Search box.  If you are just starting your research, you may wish to try a Basic Search first, and then narrow down your topic by using the Advanced Search.
  • The Basic Search box will automatically correct spelling to take you to the most relevant results.  If you enter “milennium” into the search box, the results page will alert you that there are no results for “milennium,” and that the results you are viewing are for the search term millennium.  The Advanced Search will search for terms exactly as they are entered, so a search for “milennium” retrieves only an error message.
  • The Basic Search box will also allow you to search for people both first name first and first name last.  So, if you are searching for Thomas Jefferson, both “Thomas Jefferson” and “Jefferson, Thomas” will retrieve the same results.  The Advanced Search box will search for terms exactly as they are entered.  In this case, searching for “Jefferson, Thomas” retrieved only one result, while searching “Thomas Jefferson” retrieved 125 results.
  • If you are interested a definition, you can click on the dictionary tab and retrieve results from the World Book Dictionary only.  So, for example, a search for “giraffe” on the dictionary page will retrieve only definitions of the word.
  • To search the World Book Atlas, choose the Atlas tab and then click on the continent you are interested in.  This will lead you to a map of that continent with links to maps of particular areas, and that will lead you to links to additional information about particular places.  For example, clicking on South America makes a more detailed map of the continent appear, which will allow you to click on Brazil for a detailed map of that country.  On the Brazil map, you can then choose to look at photographs of the Amazon River, or to read an encyclopedia article about Rio de Janeiro.

Special Features


Double-clicking the mouse on any word in an encyclopedia article will take you to the World Book Dictionary for a definition of that word.

Spanish Language Encyclopedia

World Book Online allows you to view encyclopedia articles in either English or in Spanish.  To view the Spanish-language version of the encyclopedia, click on the green tab in the upper-right corner of the screen.

What's New

World Book Online is updated constantly.  Every month, the What's New button on the left hand side of the home screen provides a list of links to its new content, including new photographs, new articles, and revised articles.

Explore the U.S.A.

The first button on the left hand side of the home screen, marked “Explore the U.S.A.,” contains resource guides for all of the states, Washington, D. C., and Puerto Rico.  These guides are divided into sections such as biographies, monuments and historic sites, and sports teams in addition to sections on each state’s economy, land and climate, and history.  A selection of media (including images, recordings of anthems, and illustrations) is available for each state, and there is a list of books to read to learn more about each state.

Feature of the Month

The feature of the month is an in-depth article on a topic of interest that incorporates illustrations and animations, photographs, maps, quizzes, and an annotated bibliography.  Examples of past topics include Dinosaurs, Lewis & Clark, and the U.S. Civil War.

Student Activities

This is the place to visit for finding information to read for fun or games and crafts that families can do together.  This area of the site contains games, crafts, projects, and an archive of past feature of the month articles.

Surf the Ages

Surf the Ages is a series of web pages that discusses events, people, and life in history.  Accounts are written from the point of view of people in the past, showing what the Internet might have looked like if people had created web pages in ancient times, in the Middle Ages, or in modern times.  You can learn about the past by visiting a Leif Ericson fan site, a guide for new Roman soldiers, or an advertisement placed by W. A. Mozart, a musician seeking work.

Handling Results

The results of your searches on World Book Online will appear in three columns.  The column on the left shows you how many different kinds of results your search retrieved so that you can choose to look at only the special reports that are relevant to your search, for example.  The middle column shows encyclopedia articles that were relevant to your search.  It provides a link to the article and a brief description of it.  The column on the right shows tiny reproductions of multimedia information relevant to your search, such as thumbnail maps, illustrations, and photographs.

When you click on a result, a tool box will appear in the top left corner of the result page.  The toolbox contains directions for emailing, saving, or printing the result.  All information that is printed, emailed, or saved will include the name of the author of the article or the name of the illustrator or photographer when it is available.  Articles that are printed, emailed, or saved will provide information on how to cite the source in a paper.

Other Resources

Skokie Public Library subscribes to several digital reference products that have features similar to those in World Book Online, including Searchasaurus, a database that contains a general encyclopedia, an encyclopedia of animals, and a dictionary. Search by keyword or browse by subject for articles from magazines, newspapers, and encyclopedias. Subjects include animals, art and music, health, history, people and places, science and math, sports, and stories. A dictionary, encyclopedia, and picture collection are also available. Designed for students in kindergarten through 8th grade.

Skokie Public Library also owns several excellent print encyclopedias, including World Book Encyclopedia and the New Encyclopaedia Britannica. These sources are available in the Reference Department on the second floor.

In addition, librarians at Skokie Public Library have selected and compiled the most useful databases and web sites for general reference information. Please check the Quick Reference section of our Research a Subject page for more resources.