As a student, you might wonder why use libraries, if so much information you can access on the web for free. Here’s an answer: To find quality facts online is quite often too time-consuming. You can’t always know for sure who’s the author and therefore include him or her into the reference-list of your paper.
Websites come and go, that’s why having cited one of them in your paper, you might get into trouble should your educator ask you to explain where you’ve taken the source from. As a rule, quality online sites are more difficult to reach: they require registration and subscription. What for to sign up, if you need the source for only one term paper or thesis?
As for offline or digital libraries, you might be at least 9 times more certain about the accuracy of information they provide, since sources are selected much more carefully.
Two types of libraries: pros and cons
Students can be divided into two groups: Those who love traditional libraries and those who prefer their updated version – digital libraries. Naturally, each type of libraries has its pluses and minuses.
You might often waste a lot of time searching for the right materials in offline libraries, and there is no guarantee you’ll be able to find them. There are lots of tasks you have to do, every minute is precious. Luckily, everything you need to do in a digital library is to insert a book title or author’s name into the search line – and ta-da, you get a result immediately.
Though not all libraries suggest online versions of paper books. Sometimes you even need to rewrite necessary material from books manually, because making copies can be forbidden. You could do it within a minute online – just press the download button and that’s all.
Despite you can’t enjoy turning over printed book pages, you can download any text and print it out, but this is absolutely different compared to the emotions you get when holding aged books borrowed from traditional libraries.
If you appreciate comfort and want to spend less time on searches, check the list of free library databases:
1. Virtual Library
Virtual Library is an old resource as it was created back in 1991 by Tim Berners-Lee, the Web and the HTML inventor. The other distinctive feature of the library is that volunteers are those who compose it. There are 16 sections with extra subsections sorted by subjects, you can find anything you need without difficulties: agriculture, arts, business and economics, computing and computer science, law, society, etc. Library sections consist of a list with hyperlinks that trace users to other websites and online libraries, where they can find necessary information.
2. Oxford Text Archive
Oxford Text Archive (OTA) collection of digital resources includes texts in more than 25 languages. Library is a part of the CLARIN European Research Infrastructure and part of the Academic IT section of the University of Oxford IT Service. Materials are classified according to ID (they are clickable), title, author, date, language, availability, genre, which makes the resource very user-friendly.
You can use a FAQ tab for better understanding of how OTA functions. Materials are available in XML, HTML, ePub, mobi (Kindle) formats and as a plain text.
CELT is perhaps the biggest online library, and it specializes in the Irish history, literature, art and politics. Web-resource appeared as a part of the Department of History and Computer Centre. If you are interested in these topics, this website is the best choice for you. Readers can work with texts online or download them.
Materials are sorted according to centuries, countries, languages, authors. They are also arranged according to original or translated texts. Formats available: .html, .xml, .sgml.
4. Exploratorium Digital Library
Exploratorium Digital Library is a part of Exploratorium project, a museum of science, art, and human perception.This web-site stores texts, images in .pdf and .html formats, audios and videos can also be found there.
Materials are grouped based on the types of users (teens, parents, teachers, artists, scientists, etc.), and topics (e.g. Polar Media Collection, where you can see photographs of icebergs, wildlife, etc.). You can easily find a quality source of information depending on your needs and specialization.
5. Internet Public Library
Different subsections like arts and humanities, business and economics, computers, education, entertainment, health and medical sciences, law, science are available in “Subjects” section of Internet Public Library.
Data is arranged according to these subsections, too. There is a collection of newspaper and magazine articles from a really huge amount of countries. Also you can check two more collections – for teens and kids. As you see, the range is wide, just select the one you are concerned about.
6. Library of Congress Digital Collections
Library of Congress Digital Collections, a free science library, was created as a part of Congress project. It performs an important educational function. Congress library also exists offline. Digital collection contains materials of different formats: text, audio- and video-recordings, photographs, maps, and even manuscripts. A great range of choice!
Interesting fact: “Ask a Librarian” option is available for user who have questions. You just select appropriate subject (e.g. business, law, history), and start chatting with a specialist.
7. MIT OpenCourseWare
MIT OpenCourseWare is a web-version of offline MIT courses. If you don’t have a chance to attend them out of the web, feel free to join online library and use audio or video lectures or text manuals. For users’ convenience, courses are ranged according to novelty and popularity.
Use different filters to choose exactly what you want: “Topic”, “Sub-Topic”, “Speciality”, “Course Number”, “Department Number”, “Department”.
What is more, materials are presented in different languages like Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, Persian, Turkish, and others.
8. National Academies Press
Around 5,000 materials in .pdf format are stored on the web site of National Academies Press for you. A rather handy option: you can download books or select a few pages and download them separately.
What you should pay your attention to is the following: Some books from the NAP are paid. You can order them or use those which are available for free.
9. National Science Digital Library
Sources for teaching and learning sciences, technology, engineering, mathematics, history, politics, ecology and a lot others are stored in National Science Digital Library archives. Search system is rather user-friendly on NSDL website: You select resource type, subject, educational level. If it’s not enough for you, use an advanced search.
By the way, resources of NSDL are truly substantial: Games, lecture notes, lesson plans, video and audio lectures, syllabi…
However, not all the sources of information here are free, you need to get site membership or pay to use certain resources.
These online libraries can help you save time and effort, so you can solely devote more hours to studying. So, what is your choice: classical libraries or digital ones? Please share your opinion in the comments. Be active and express your point!