re older posts on research methods
- Hi, I was just catching up on some old posts, and there was an interesting
discussion thread about issues, resources and skills (or lack thereof) in
scholarly and academic research, in both traditional and cyber mode.
I just came across this, so at the risk of revisiting a long past topic, or
reporting on a subject well known by some people on the list, I thought to
pass this along:
+ No Charge: Public Libraries Provide Full-Text Access to Databases!
By Gary Price
Guest Editor, Search Engine Watch
Copyright (c) 2003 Jupitermedia Corporation.
A persistent myth says that you can find "everything" on the web. Not
even close! Fortunately, many public libraries offer free access to a
wealth of online databases that are often much higher quality than what
you can (or can't) find on the web.
For many people doing "research" or finding an answer to a question simply
involves going to a web search engine, typing in one or more keywords, and
hoping that something relevant is returned. No doubt about it, the web is
an incredible resource, but it isn't home to an answer to every question.
Other resources can potentially provide an answer -- often a much better
answer than the web offers -- that satisfies your information need. One
place that you could potentially find this type of material is your local
For most of you, the library is a familiar place. However, what you might
be unaware of is that many public libraries in the United States and
Canada offer free access to databases that contain full-text magazine and
newspaper articles, biographical profiles, full-text books, and much more.
These databases also contain large amounts of material that you would
never be able to access using a web engine.
What's even more exciting is that these databases are available remotely.
That's right, with a library card you can access these resources from any
computer connected to the Internet, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365
days a year. In other words, you have total access to the content without
having to visit the library building.
It's impossible to list every database available from every public library
since resources vary amongst libraries. Simply visit your local library's
web site, or give them a call and ask what's available and how to gain
access. It's a painless process that can be accomplished in a matter of
If your library provides these services, you'll very likely find several
databases provided by one or more online vendors. You will most likely
come across names like InfoTrac, EbscoHost, and ProQuest. Don't let the
names confuse you. These and other companies offer databases that contain
the full-text or citations from hundreds and thousands of well-known
publications going back several years.
Some of these databases also provide full-image reproductions of the
material. This means you can access a pdf (Adobe Acrobat) version of the
article directly from your desktop. In some cases, these articles are the
same ones that you might have to pay for if you went directly to a
publication's web site .
Also, don't assume you'll need to learn difficult syntax or interfaces.
Most of these databases offer several search options, ranging from a
simple search box (similar to a web engine) to natural language (simply
ask a question) to more advanced choices.
By the way, it's not only articles that you'll find. For example, my
public library provides access to the Biography Reference Center. This
database provides the complete Complete Marquis Who's Who which contains
biographical information on over 900,000 people.
It's important to note that, in most cases, these databases are licensed
by your local library for personal use. Make sure to check about any and
all copyright restrictions.
Below are some examples of remotely accessible databases available from
the Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York Public Libraries. Though you can
see what's available, you won't be able to access them unless you have a
library card. However, thousand of other libraries, quite possibly
including your own, offer similar services.
Chicago Public Library - Magazines, Newspapers and Databases
Use the drop-down menu to see what patrons of the Chicago public library
Los Angeles Public Library - Remote Access Databases
The New York Public Library - Electronic Resources
Locate Your Local Public Library's Web Site
Libdex is a searchable database with links to over 18,000 libraries.
Ferrari Searching on a Volkswagen Budget
SearchDay, Dec. 4, 2002
Don't let the "high cost" of value-added information services such as
LexisNexis, Dialog and Factiva scare you away -- all three offer
reasonable pay-as-you-go options appealing even to searchers on a limited
The Ten Commandments of Internet Searching
SearchDay Feb. 27, 2002
There are right ways -- and wrong ways -- of using the Internet as a
search resource. Newcomers often make the mistake of thinking that
"everything" can be found on the net. Wizened information professionals
often mistakenly believe that the Net is nothing but an online cyberslum
offering nothing of merit. The truth lies somewhere between these two
Guest Editor, Search Engine Watch