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American History: Survey

Web Research Guide

Library vs. the Internet

  • We live in the information age, where access to many wonderful Internet resources is just a few quick clicks away. For this reason, you might be thinking, "Cool. I don't have to go to the library. I can do all my research online." Not so fast. The Internet is not a substitute for the library. It's a tool best used in addition to to traditional research sources.
    • Why use both? Because each has resources, benefits, and limitations that the other does not. Examine the pros and cons of both the library and the Internet below.
    • Library
    • Internet
    • Pros
      • Uses universal cataloging systems that classify and organize all resources.
      • Houses professional books, newspapers, magazines, and other resources that have been edited and reviewed prior to their publication.
      • Provides free access to journals, magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias, and other print reference works.
      • Often has archived materials—newspapers and magazines—that date back many years.
      • Offers a free Internet connection and other electronic resources, such as reference CD-ROMs.
      • Has knowledgeable reference librarians to help you locate resources.
      • Online resources can be accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
      • Web sites can be constantly updated to provide breaking news and timely information.
      • Provides opportunities for two-way communication through e-mail, LISTSERVS, and newsgroups.
      • Provides access to many newspapers, magazines, journals, and encyclopedias.
      • Some sites feature rare books, documents, and special collections that traditionally have only been available in libraries.
      • Offers a complete multimedia experience, with text, video, interactive features, audio, hyperlinks, and graphics all in one place.
    • Library
    • Internet
    • Cons
      • Resources can be checked out by other patrons and, therefore, may not always be available.
      • A library's publications cannot provide up-to-the-minute news and information the way Web sites can.
      • Closes after hours.
      • Has no system that catalogs and organizes all resources.
      • Anyone with an Internet connection can publish a Web site.
      • Reliability of information is not guaranteed.
      • Archived materials might only date back several years.
      • Some electronic resources are only available through a subscription.
      • Internet access is often not free.
      • Does not have knowledgeable librarians who can help you find resources.