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Making the Most of Libraries in the Digital Age

April 14, 2011
by Liz Colville
The advent of the Internet has seen many people migrating from the library to the Internet to do research, but libraries are undoubtedly still the best option. Fortunately, it’s easy to find libraries with extensive collections on the Web.

The Armchair Library Patron

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For some, university libraries may recall all-night cram sessions, intensive thesis writing and mile-high stacks of overdue books. University libraries are also home to some of the most impressive collections in the world, many of which are available to more than just the students and teachers at the institution. The blog College Degree found 100 of these and featured them in the post “100 Extensive University Libraries from Around the World that Anyone Can Access.” These digital libraries include scanned manuscripts, music, photography and more. Find categories such as digital libraries, international digital libraries, texts, medical libraries and legal libraries.
The World Digital Library features free materials from 23 (and counting) library collections from around the world. A collaboration between UNESCO and the Library of Congress, the project hopes to foster better relations between countries and, of course, to improve online education. John Van Oudenaren, the director of the project, also suggests that older forms of media are being usurped by the rapid rate of the mainstream media; bringing more of the world’s history online can help offset this.

The Internet Archive is a different kind of library featuring an archive of sound, film, word and image. Explore the site for a fun and educational trip through history—including the history of the Internet. Its Wayback Machine preserves Web sites as they looked in years past.

But there’s nothing quite like wandering around your own local or university library. The site Libweb can help you do just that: Enter a keyword to find a library near you, or browse by state.

If you already know what book, CD, DVD or article you’re looking for, search the global library catalogue WorldCat to find the item in a library near your zip code.

Research the Web Like a Pro

It’s tempting to head to your favorite search engine and punch in a few keywords when starting a research project. But there are many other resources that are free, easy to access and potentially much more informative. Use the resources below to get your bearings on the researchable Web.

A Research Guide for Students
is a simple, text-based Web site divided into chapters. It includes search boxes for multiple search engines, citation guidelines, quotation guidelines, “How to Survive the Internet Unscathed” and many more articles.

How do librarians navigate the Web? One method involves the ipl2, a site that catalogs quality, research-fit Web sites on hundreds of topics.

FindingDulcinea’s Guide to Web Search includes research tips and links to sites that discuss Web site credibility, choosing a search engine, using web directories and scholarly resources, and much more. And students will find our Students’ Guide to Web Search catered to their needs. It’s helpful when starting a research project or when looking for bookmark-worthy sites on a variety of topics. The guide also includes sites to help students learn more about how search engines work.

Journals may seem like a luxury bestowed to university and college students, but everyone can benefit from the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), which has more than 5,000 journals in its database.

Online Education Database’s “Research Beyond Google: 119 Authoritative, Invisible, and Comprehensive Resources” takes you beyond standard go-to sites like search engines. Its list includes “deep Web” search engines, art databases, international resources, government data resources and more.
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