There’s no question that the Internet has forever changed the way we perform research. With a simple click of the button and keyword search, we can get thousands of results about the topic we’re looking for at our fingertips. Even so, this doesn’t mean we should overlook the valuable resource of academic libraries.
In fact, many libraries nowadays recognize the value of Internet research, but just as one part of the research process. The resources of your local library, academic or otherwise, are another source. The resources they offer aren’t just of the historical variety.
Not Everything is Online
As hard as it is to believe, not everything is accessible online. While Google Books has made strides to change that fact, there are a plethora of sources that Google can’t find, simply because they don’t exist online yet. Libraries often organize digital libraries, but even those may require a library password or other authentication.
When visiting a library, you can gain access to other sources to make sure you’re covering your research topic as thoroughly as possible. This means you’ll also have access to newspapers, academic journals, magazines and print references, to name a few. Many libraries also have a section of archived materials, some quite old, which will never exist on the Internet. All these sources can be a wonderful treasure trove of information.
Catalog in a Different Way
Libraries use a very specific cataloging systems that they’ve used for years. This makes it easy to search out content and easily find where that content is stored (as long as that source isn’t checked out). The Internet is set up in a different way. Unlike the library, there is no in-house expert categorizing the results of your search. Rather, when you type in a keyword, you’re going to get the content that the web and the search engine’s algorithm sees as the most important. Due to this, you might be missing a source that could be quite valuable to the topic you’re researching.
Know Your Sources
Along the same lines, it’s not always easy to tell who the original source of an article online is. Anyone can publish a website nowadays, and content can easily be misleading or even wrong. In a library though, the content you’ll be looking at has been vetted. As it was published under rigorous guidelines, whether the source is a newspaper or an article in an academic journal. This is not to say there isn’t valuable sources and research available online – there is. But sometimes you might have to dig deeper to make sure you’re getting accurate information from a reliable source.
Offer Other Resources
Not only can you find some great content at a library, but you can use their other resources, like librarians. Librarians have literally been trained to find information, and they can help you navigate the library catalog so that you’re finding all the information you can. Let’s also not overlook that libraries are about more than just pulling books and materials off the shelves. Libraries can offer a quiet place to do your work, meeting rooms for tutoring, coaching sessions, team projects, as well as access to computers and the Internet.
Libraries are, and continue to be, important places, and not just because studies have shown that students who use library resources tend to do better on standardized testing. They offer a number of resources, both online and off, and as such, they shouldn’t be overlooked.