A Review of World Bank eLibrary
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Gurpreet Kaur Rana, MLIS  
Global Health Coordinator 
Taubman Health Sciences Library 
University of Michigan 

As researchers and learners investigate public health in a global context, it is important for health sciences librarians and informationists to be familiar with information and data sources on global issues. Global development – be it in the Global South or Global North – impacts health everywhere. Of course, in our present time, one thinks immediately of the COVID-19 pandemic in this context, but this also includes climate change, migration, conflict, health equity, food security, and so many other relevant topic areas.  

As global issues affect the health of communities regionally and locally, research resources focused upon determinants of international health, wellness, and development are increasingly becoming necessary for researchers, graduate students, and undergraduate learners across health sciences disciplines.  

World Bank eLibrary provides subscribers with access to a broad range of topical research content addressing aspects of global development. It is a complex but easy-to-use information resource including a variety of information and data sources. According to the resource itself, it supports two goals — 1) working to end extreme poverty and 2) boosting shared prosperity — through research conducted and published by the World Bank. The eLibrary specifically focuses on research, data, and knowledge synthesis on developing countries and emerging economies.  

Health sciences researchers are increasingly addressing health in the context of the United National Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). World Bank eLibrary content is in line with the interdisciplinary nature of the SDGs within a global health and health equity lens.   

The intended eLibrary audience are researchers and librarians. The eLibrary researcher could be broadly categorized as undergraduate or graduate students, faculty, or other types of researchers. 


World Bank eLibrary content is organized by Region, Topics, Collections, Data, and Recommended Readings. The homepage provides a review of recently added content and presently provides a direct link to a subset of scholarly publications and research on COVID-19 in developing countries.  

The Region section organizes research content by the following regions: Africa, East Asia and Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, Latin America and Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa, and South Asia.  

Each Region sub-section provides links to the World Bank’s freely available regional profiles, regionally focused World Bank Open Data, and the World Bank blog posts addressing regional development in general or in specific countries within the region. Additionally, a regional dashboard of commonly used World Bank’s World Development Indicators data is shared. A browsable hyperlinked list of countries in the region allows for nation-level investigation. Lastly, each region page provides books, chapters, working papers, journal articles, and other research on the respective region. The content can be filtered by content type, language, topic, sub-region, country, author, keyword, and publication date. 

The Topics section organizes research content by 28 comprehensive topics. These include Conflict and Development; Environment; Gender; Health, Nutrition, and Population; Information and Communication Technologies; Poverty Reduction; and Water Supply and Sanitation. Each Topics sub-section introduces the topic in context and provides links to World Bank Open Data by topic, with browsable research filtered by content type, language, sub-topic, region, country, author, keyword, and publication date.  

The Collections section is broken up into five sub-sections: Books, Working Papers, Journals, Other Research, and Multilingual Content.   

  • Books and Working Papers, easily packaged and accessible through the eLibrary, are one of the resource’s most useful features.  
  • The Journals sub-section may be misleading as it currently consists of content from only two journals: World Bank Economic Review and World Bank Research Observer.  
  • Other Research consists of sub-collections of official reports, technical papers, informal working papers and briefs, and World Bank presidential speeches organized and gathered in a central location. This grey literature is another one of the eLibrary’s most useful features.  
  • The majority of the non-English Multilingual Content are books in French or Spanish. Minimal content is available in Arabic, Russian, Chinese, Portuguese, and Japanese.  

The Data section is organized into three sub-sections: data by region and economies; data by indicators categories; and a sub-section about the data that describe the World Development Indicators and provide data updates and errata.  

The eLibrary describes Recommended Readings as “curated lists intended to save students and professors time when seeking content on popular topics for their research or courses.” At the time this review was written, there were Recommended Readings topics on:   

  • Climate Change and Development 
  • Conflict and Development 
  • Gender Economics 
  • Microfinance 
  • Monitoring and Evaluation 
  • Power and Energy 
  • Sustainable Urban Development 
  • Women and Children’s Health 

Additionally, the Recommended Readings section includes case studies generated by the World Bank Group by region and topic. Case studies are useful in aiding students to dive deeper into and understand complex global issues. This reviewer uses case studies to introduce global health information in a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approach.  

Features and Functionality 

The World Bank Group makes content available both freely through its Open Knowledge Repository (OKR) and by subscription through World Bank eLibrary. Users may not be clear on what content is openly available and what is value-added content available specifically through World Bank eLibrary. The content available through both resources is clarified in this table from the World Bank Group, World Bank eLibrary vs. Open Knowledge Repository (OKR) (updated June 2021), which describes differences and commonalities between both resource platforms while comparing content, administrator tools, and features.  

One might question the utility of World Bank eLibrary since some of the content – including much of the data – is freely available through World Bank Open Data. It should be noted that not all of the content in the eLibrary is openly available. Additionally, if libraries want access to the books, chapters, working papers, and customization features, with content organized and connected in one resource, World Bank eLibrary is a relevant research resource.  

World Bank eLibrary contains all World Bank publications since 1990, whereas the Open Knowledge Repository contains publications from 2000 onwards. Also, the eLibrary makes book content searchable by chapters.  

World Bank eLibrary is recommended for its research tools, administration features, stability, and organization of content. This is not a resource that is recommended for purchase by health sciences libraries less focused on the needs of researchers specializing in disciplines such as public health, global health, or health policy.  

Of particular note to the researcher or librarian searcher is that content from the eLibrary can be directly exported to Zotero, EndNote, RefWorks, and other citation tools. Document references with links to Google Scholar records are also available to enable ancestry searching.   

In addition to basic search functionality for broad searching of the site and content areas, the advanced search feature allows for more focused searching filtered by defined topic areas, region, format, and publication date.  

Institutional users can create and customize individual accounts, which can be used to save searches, create a “favorites” documents collection, and create alerts (i.e., new content alerts by journal or book series, citation alerts, or alerts for new content organized by designated topics or subtopics). 

Business Model 

Three access models are available: 1) IP authentication and Self-Service IP Updating, Single Sign-on (SSO), or 3) Google CASA (Campus Activated Subscriber Access).  

Subscriptions are available for institutional level and not for individual users. World eLibrary recommends institutional access for academic institutions, national libraries, non-governmental agencies, and intergovernmental agencies.  

Most of World Bank eLibrary content is made available under a CC BY 3.0 IGO license. As such, content is available to be saved and shared for broader use and can be disseminated in perpetuity. 

Pricing for a 12-month subscription is based on FTE and by the type of organization. The eLibrary provides access to content from the 1990s, with some content going further back. Subscribers have access to administrative tools including aggregated and non-identifiable usage data directly from the platform. MARC records and KBART files make easy integration into library systems possible.  

The purpose for purchasing this resource is for easy access to books and working papers collections, and especially for the content organized in one location. Other features of the resource that World Bank eLibrary markets as beneficial to libraries include customized training and support, including webinars, dedicated customer support, and geographical and consortium discounts.  

It is notable that there is a subscription model for low-income and middle-income countries; income as defined by the World Development Indicators. Low-income country subscribers receive a 50% discount and select middle-income countries receive a 20% discount.  


World Bank eLibrary is recommended for purchase by research libraries and organizations that benefit from having access to global development information organized and curated in an easy-to-use interface.  

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