On Computers

Library Aid

Gail Allinson, gail@oncomputers.info

5 October 2003


It's that time of year again.  If you are a student, you may have already been assigned your first research project of the year.  Then again, if you are not a student you probably know that research is a year round event.  The good news is that as a non-student you probably don't have to write a paper, you probably just need information. So this week we are looking at some online library resources that you can use for work or for pleasure.

Believe it or not, many public and school libraries have entered the electronic age. So before you hop a car, bus or train down to your library, you may want to give them a call and get their Web site address, or just do an online search.  My local library was just a Google away.

Once you find your library Web site, see if the card catalog is online.  If it is, you can search it from the comfort of your home computer. Many libraries now also subscribe to other resources and databases, some of which may be accessible from computers outside the library. If these resources are not accessible from without, they may be accessible from within the library.  Either way, they give you a broad, easily searched base of information.

Because the available resources of any library will vary, I can't go into many specifics; but give your library a call, a visit, or an e-mail and find out just what they offer.  Most librarians are only too happy to hear from you and to answer your questions, including questions about the library and its online resources

Ask a Librarian

Here at On Computer tips, we like to practice what we preach, so this week I put my local library to the test.  My library has a Web site an on it there is a Web form on it for their "Ask a Librarian" service.  So I did.  What follows is an excerpt of from my librarian's reply:

Most librarians have a favorite list of Web sites and I am no exception. Which site I choose to use usually depends on the question.

My list of frequently used sites is too long to reply to your question but I came up with a list of Web sites created by libraries that I hope will help answer your request. The list is at the end of this message.

Thank you for using the Online Reference Service.

Martha, Reference

Nevada County Library


The Library of Congress

The Library of Congress - the mother of all library Web sites. The site has the holdings of the Library as well as some wonderful other resources. One option on the page is Thomas which provides access to bills in Congress and committee. Another option takes the user to the copyright office and the collections provided on the page are wonderful for history questions.

Ben's Guide to U.S. Government for Kids

Ben's Guide is a government site that provides information about the federal government at a 4 different age levels. Not really a library created site but still useful for explaining government to children.

Librarians' Index to the Internet - lii.org

The Librarians index to the Internet. A directory of Internet resources indexed by subject. The site was created by California librarians and each entry is reviewed by a librarian in California.

Los Angeles Public Library

The Los Angeles Public Library Web page provides separate pages on children's and teens information. It has a very good Spanish site and the "Web Links" section on the front page leads to a subject directory that is very useful and easy to navigate.

Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County

The Charlotte & Mecklenburg County Library Web site is another good library site. It has separate sites for kids information called BookHive, a separate site for business called BizLink, as well as a Reader's Club. The "Useful Web Sites" option links to some interesting Web sites grouped by categories. The directory is not as easy to use as LII but offers some different information.

Lippincott Library @ Wharton

The Lippincott Library at the Wharton School of Business is a good source of business information. the Business Database Wizard section under E-Resources is a good starting point for business and investment information.

Internet Public Library

(My librarian did not give a description of this one, but The Internet Public Library is a public service organization and a learning/teaching environment at the University of Michigan School of Information)

Okay, so that was too easy!  My librarian practically wrote today's article for me. I already knew about two of the resources on this list, but may never have found the others without my librarian's help.

This illustrates just how easy it is to get good information from your librarian.  They are trained research professionals.  Not only that, but their job is to help you.  So next time you have a questions or need help on some research don't forget to ask your librarian.


Jack's Two Cents Worth on Homework Research

Jack 'daWabbit' Imsdahl jack@oncomputers.info

Get Involved Homework research on line is a perfect opportunity to get involved with your kids, to my way of thinking. You get to help the child learn how to search the web, which is a skill everyone needs now, or will in the near future, and you can supervise their web use at the same time. I'm really big on that supervision thing. Everyone knows about explicit sex and stuff like hate literature on line that children should not be exposed to. But there's quite a bit more to it than that. Even something as innocent as health information or political news can be disturbing to a child and require an adult to put it in perspective for them. Your presence and continued attention is thus required. All work and no play is a bore, too, so be sure to find some things for the child to practice researching on that she or he finds fun and rewarding.


This is the dictionary I most often use. It's quick and easy and presents the results in a linear manner that is easily understood by a new user or child. There's a dictionary toolbar available for Internet Explorer 5.0 and above, too. I've suggested this site to several parents for just this purpose and have received some positive feedback. The site also has dictionaries in other languages besides English and specialized types, such as dictionaries for the legal and medical fields.

How Stuff Works.com

Fairly detailed information on an incredibly wide range of topics. Not overly deep or technical, it nevertheless is a good starting point for many subjects. You'll get a basic knowledge of the subject here. There is enough information to direct and inform further inquiries on the subject, at the least. Offerings are well written, for the most part, and easily understood. There are some topics here you might not want your kids exploring, such as lock picking, but for the most part, it's a family-friendly site. 


This site is operated by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and contains reference and tutorial works in a number of categories from mathematics to Eastern religions to folk music and poetry. There are also Linux and Open Source/Free Software archives here. This is one of those sites where I occasionally come to cruise, just to see what might interest me. I usually find something I can't live without reading, too.

Project Gutenberg

Currently in the process of moving to; http://www.ibiblio.org/gutenberg/

Project Gutenberg is dedicated to putting all books in the public domain on the internet as a freely accessible archive. This includes fiction and non-fiction works. They already have thousands of titles listed and are adding a minimum of 100 per month to the lists. It is a grand place to find titles of all descriptions. You can also donate or volunteer to further this ambitious work. The project itself is over 30 years old and moved onto the internet as soon as it was available. The Human Genome Project results are published here, as are the poems of Geoffrey Chaucer. I don't think it's possible for me to briefly describe the span of titles available at this one site. You'll simply have to go see for yourselves. Indexing of available works is a bit spotty, being done only by author and title, without being listed by subject. However, this handicap will be overcome eventually and the site made even friendlier by that.



© 2003 Gail Allinson and Jack Imsdahl

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