iCONN News

Monday, August 15, 2005

Forbes.com - Magazine Article on What your library has to offer above & beyond Google

Check out the article at Forbes.com - Magazine Article on "Google Isn't Everything" by Stephen Manes. It extols the virtues of the online databases available through libraries and the quality olf data found within these little treasure troves. If you don't want to register to see the article, you can always use bugmenot to get a quick username and password. It's also - of course - available in iCONN through InfoTrac OneFile.

I'm going to excerpt the article for you to give you a feel for the work. It's just an excerpt, in order to try and ensure that I'm respecting "fair use" copyright rules, so I encourage you to follow up at Forbes' website. BTW, I've bolded one paragraph of salient interest to this blog (emphasis added is mine):

Google Isn't Everything
Stephen Manes, 08.15.05, 12:00 AM ET
In the mood for beach reading, an audiobook, homework help or stock research? Your public library offers them free via the Net right now.

In the age of Google, when we wonder about stuff we want instant answers. I happened to wonder about the first recorded use of the term "personal computer," so I Googled around and ended up at Wikipedia, the hit-or-miss user-developed encyclopedia, whose "personal computer" entry declared authoritatively that "The earliest known use of the term was in New Scientist magazine in 1964, in a series of articles called ‘The World in 1984.'"

I still don't know the answer to my question, but I do know--no thanks to Google--that Wikipedia got it wrong. That's because I found an earlier citation with the help of an even older purveyor of information: my public library. And I didn't have to move an inch to do it...

Like its counterparts across the country, my Seattle Public Library offers Net access to an increasingly wide range of databases that don't exist on the open Web and, because they reside behind a fee-based gate, don't get indexed by the likes of Google (exception:the academic and scientific works uncovered by the new Google Scholar project). Since libraries license the info in bulk, it typically costs individual users not a penny. Which is a lot less than it can go for on the open Web...

The New York Times charges from $1.60 to $3.95 for most articles eight days or older, depending on how many you buy at once....

None of these databases is perfect, since most were initially designed for trained librarians rather than mere flailing mortals, so the user interfaces can be daunting until you get the hang of them. But libraries increasingly have online chat services that let you consult with live experts if you get stuck. Even if your community's library is not in the vanguard, all may not be lost:States such as Michigan offer similar services in exchange for your driver's license number....

My biggest complaint is that some libraries' Web sites don't detail the amazing range of services they offer online until you cough up a card number. Memo to those insular institutions: Put the info in the shop windows out front and I bet you'll see a lot more card-carrying customers walking through the electronic doors.

Stephen Manes (steve@cranky.com) is cohost of PC World's Digital Duo, which appears weekly on public television. Visit his home page at www.forbes.com/manes.


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