In reply to: Alex White
Alex wrote an excellent quick post about using local libraries. It reminded me of when my mother used to take me and my brother to the library almost every day as a child; they really are excellent places with incredible services.
As Alex wrote about the physical benefits and services of libraries, I thought I should share some of the digital ones. I agree that going to a library can be an amazing experience, but it is also useful to know how to get the most out of yours when you can’t go there in person.
Thanks to the Internet, libraries are often accessible online. If you go on your local library’s website, chances are there will be a searchable catalog of books. You can often also place holds so that you can pick up the books at a time that works for you, or checkout an ebook or digital scan so that you can research completely from wherever you are.
If your library is part of a larger group of libraries, such as the Merrimack Valley Library Consortium, then you can also check the group’s website to search all of the libraries at once.
Many libraries have or provide access to academic journal article databases. For example, the NECC Library has a searchable catalog of different databases which students can access, and the Boston Public Library (BPL) provides access to JSTOR.
If your local library does not have access to something like this, try your state library. Any Massachusetts resident can get a BPL card or BPL eCard, for example, which gives them access to all of the services provided by the Boston Public Library. Your state may have a specific state library, or it may be the same as your state capital’s library. If you don’t know how to get a library card for your state library, try asking your local librarian.
Libraries can also provide access to current newspapers, individual newspaper archives, and newspaper archive search engines. I have found Storied’s NewspaperArchive to be the best so far, and the BPL happily provides access to it.
Just as libraries often have DVDs and other physical media, they can also provide access to various streaming services. I have not personally tried any of these services because I actually prefer DVDs and am pretty good at pirating things, so I will not recommend any specific one. Nevertheless, I belive this is still useful for many people, and have heard nothing but positive things from people I know who’ve tried this.
Libraries can offer so much more than is listed here. Some of my libraries offer maps, magazines, images, and museum passes, for example. Visiting a library can be incredibly useful, and actually talking to a librarian can sometimes be the best way to find information that you can’t on your own. But if you don’t have time to visit, then your state and local libraries can still give you access to everything you need to find it yourself.