July 23, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

Free information for the taking

Free information for the taking
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Steal this book? Don't bother

July 23, 2007
There's a wealth of free resources out there--online databases, audiobooks, museum passes, and help so that you can find even more resources. You just need to know where to look:


Databases
Intute is a search site offered by a consortium of universities that covers science and technology, arts and humanities, social sciences, and health and life sciences. You don't have to be a library member to use it.

Associations Unlimited lists international associations, as well as U.S. nation, regional, state, and local associations and IRS data on nonprofit organizations.

ReferenceUSA has phone numbers and detailed information on more than 15 million U.S. and Canadian businesses, 210 million U.S. and 12 million Canadian residential listings.

Related story
Steal this book? Don't bother
Libraries offer quick and legal access to loads of free content, but few people know about such services.

The Historical New York Times Project offers everything the paper has published since 1851 to within the last three years. Search results include a plain text file, a PDF of the article or a PDF of the newspaper page containing the article. The PDF newspaper pages are full of live links, so you can jump to another article that catches your eye on the page as you do with a real newspaper. This type of database is available for several leading and local newspapers through the average public library.

Gale Virtual Reference Library from Thompson Gale offers full-text articles from more than 1,000 different encyclopedic sources in e-book format including those from third-party publishers. Libraries pick and choose which sets they want to include so content varies. Titles offered include the Business Plans Handbook, International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security and Roaring Twenties Reference Library.

Factiva from Dow Jones offers access to full text articles from more than 10,000 worldwide sources, including newswire stories from Reuters and the Associated Press and transcripts of news broadcasts.

Heritage Quest Online holds U.S. Census data from 1790 to 1930, the African American Freedman's Bank records, 20,000 histories from families, and an index of about 2 million articles on genealogy and local American culture.

InfoTrack offers charts and images, in addition to full text articles from peer-reviewed academic journals, newspapers and general periodicals.

JStor is an archive of scholarly journals from academic libraries ranging as far back as the 1600s to within the last two to five years, depending on the copyright holder's preference. The archive, run by a not-for-profit organization of academic institutions, scans and stores the articles as high-resolution images so people can view them in their original layout and format.

Ebsco Host contains a comprehensive group of databases offering full text articles from newspapers, periodicals and journals on a wide variety of subjects.

Business Source Premier is a business research database of periodicals on all subject areas relating to businesses including economic reports, country and industry reports, company profiles and full text articles going back as far as 1965.

E-books
Many libraries have begun to lend digital versions of their books. The San Francisco Public Library lends out more than 5,000 titles as e-books. The files can be downloaded to your computer or a portable device and are good for seven days.

Ebrary, a California publishing company founded by Chris Warnock, the son of Adobe Systems co-founder and chairman John Warnock, also offers abut 20,000 freely searchable e-books. The database is licensed to several libraries, but if your library does not subscribe you can still use part of the service from the company's main Web site. It's free to read the material online and 25 cents per page to copy or print.

Audiobooks
Before you plunk down $30 at Audible.com for company on those long car drives or daily commutes, consider what your library might have to offer. Libraries, such as the Chicago Public Library, now offer free downloads of digital audibooks after downloading free software and updating your media player from the library's site. The files are DRM-protected, but you can transfer them to portable media players, smart phones or cell phones and in many cases even burn them to a CD. Once the loan period for the file is over, the file is expired and will no longer play. You then just delete the file.

There is, however, one major reason audiobook rental has not caught on. Most of the service providers of audiobooks use DRM-protected WMA (Windows Media Audio) files, a file format the Apple's iPods do not currently support.

"We have had a subscription to NetLibrary for about four years. People are using it for downloadable audible books," said Leslie Burger, who served as president of the American Library Association from July 2006 to June 2007 and is the director of the Princeton Public Library in Princeton, N.J. "Of course, the problem with that is that you can't download to an iPod. It frustrates people. You would get more if it were working with the most ubiquitous device. Of course, some people do use it. They bought the kind of MP3 players they need to get them to work."

Free passes to museums
Some libraries, such as the Boston Public Library offer free passes to museums or discounts to local area attractions. Keep in mind, however, that you do need to reserve these ahead of time and pick them up at the library branch in person.

Your own personal librarian
Still too overwhelmed by choice on your library's Web site? You could simply ask for help. Most libraries offer personal librarian service with a two- or three-day e-mail response time. They will either answer your question, or offer suggestions on how to find what you need.

Massachusetts, for example, is part of a librarian service that offers real-time assistance with a librarian 24 hours a day, seven days a week via instant messaging. A list of live links the librarian showed during the chat session will be sent to you via e-mail, as well as a transcript of the chat if you want it. New Jersey offers a similar service called QandANJ.

The U.K. and Australia also offer the same type of service for its citizens at the national level.

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7 comments

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Our local council provides loads of free information online too
We have access to company information, Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford Reference Online, Grove Art Online, Grove Music Online, NewsUK and World Book all by just quoting our library card number.
Posted by marcgr (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Missed major resource - WorldCat.org
A little surprizing that a key resource was overlooked -- WorldCat.org is the world's largest catalog of library resources; it's freely accessible, and WorldCat.org can help anyone identify what resources are available at their local library.
Posted by avatar145 (1 comment )
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Comment:
Another useful add-on software package, the Garmin Travel Guide, is loaded with information provided by Marco Polo. These guides put in-depth travel information such as reviews and recommendations for restaurants, tourist attractions, and more at your fingertips. The software allows you to navigate to an address or search points of interest-- places like hotels, restaurants, shopping, and tourist attractions. The nüvi 350 <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.highspeedsat.com/nuvi350.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.highspeedsat.com/nuvi350.htm</a> automatically calculates the fastest route and provides voice-prompted turn-by-turn directions along the way. The unit also audibly announces the name of upcoming streets-- letting you keep your eyes on the road while navigating through busy traffic and tricky roadways. <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.highspeedsat.com/nuvi200.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.highspeedsat.com/nuvi200.htm</a> And if you stray off course, the nüvi 350 automatically calculates the quickest way to get back on track.
Posted by maestrogps (8 comments )
Link Flag
Re: Free information for the taking
In addition to the included travel tools, additional software add-ons are available, such as the Garmin Language Guide, with data provided by Oxford University Press. This software suite contains a multilingual word bank, phrase bank, and five bilingual dictionaries. The multilingual word bank and phrase bank supports nine languages and dialects, including American English, British English, French, German, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, European Portuguese, European Spanish, and Latin American Spanish. <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.highspeedsat.com/nuvi350.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.highspeedsat.com/nuvi350.htm</a> Now you can look up and translate more than 17,000 words or 20,000 phrases per language -- right in the palm of your hand. Through the unit's text-to-speech interface, users can get a spoken pronunciation of each entry in the word bank, along with gender and part of speech information.
Posted by jordan357 (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Steal this book? So where are all the patrons?
Do a better job of promoting ourselves?! And where will the money come from?
Posted by leslielarocque (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Promoting Library Online Services
Great article, but it should have listed a way for patrons to connect to these services. Publiclibraries.com will take you to your library's website.

As many of us have pointed out before, the vendors' websites do NOT show people how to connect through their libraries, and usually don't even mention this as a possiblity. Ebsco is the worst in this regard, but except for Gale and Proquest, none of the vendors are doing much to clue patrons in.

The only way we'll ever get lots of people using library online services is through a major national promotion, preferably tby the American Library Association. Our penny-ante local efforts, bookmarks and flyers etc., do almost nothing; they are a major waste of time. States like Indiana and Connecticut that do major statewide marketing campaigns, and have a single, simple website everyone in the state can use, (preferably by IP address) are the only ones that get major usage.

Why not a nationwide library website listing all the major services: Ebsco, Gale, Newsbank, ReferenceUSA, Proquest, JSTOR, with links to the individual libraries that subscribe? Get Webfeast to set up a federated search for it, and ge the vendors to help pay for it. This would be a truly beneficial project for ALA to take on.
Posted by angetombee (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
How to be confident your information source is valid
Any information you find on the Internet is no better than the
validity of the source from which it comes. The Virtual Learning
Resources Center, <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.virtuallrc.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.virtuallrc.com</a> , is a search engine
that indexes only information sites recommended by teachers,
librarians, and educational and library consortia.
Posted by drmichaelbell (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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