September 21, 2009

A better kind of internet than the one you know (Part one in a series)

If you write, present, or conduct competitive research, here’s a resource you should add to your toolbox. Would it be helpful to you to have free, full-text access to an exhaustive archive of content from blogs, academic and trade journals, newspapers and other periodicals? Well, in most cases you already have that. You just don’t know it. Unless, of course, you’ve been in an institution of higher learning in the past five to eight years, and in some cases, not even then.

Public libraries offer patrons remote access to some very powerful (read: searchable) full-text databases. Most people’s eyes (and brains) glaze over when you share a statement like that. So maybe it's best if I share where to find them and how to use them. That way you can see for yourself. A few words of preparation for those new to the concept: it isn’t Shake n’ Bake, but it isn’t rocket science either. You’ll figure it out once you get there. But don’t expect to be good at search until you’ve done at least a little investigation.

Where to find free databases
If you live in Indiana, visit INSPIRE. Your IP address authenticates you as an Indiana resident. If you live elsewhere, search by your state’s name and a term like “digital libraries” or “database.” You should also visit your local library’s web site to see what additional databases they beyond INSPIRE. If you live in a community that has a college or university, you probably have access to an even greater universe of databases if you’re willing to go onsite or become a student. These are so powerful you might even want to become a student just for the access. Remember, friends, this is the same sort of content that corporations, marketing research firms and law firms buy for bazillions. Organizations don’t buy what they can get for free. The reason they pay is that the content is better (and more searchable) than what you get on the free web! Better, better, better. And more precise than an internet search.

As an Indiana resident, INSPIRE is free to you because it has already been financed by the Indiana General Assembly through Build Indiana Funds, the Institute of Museums and Library Services (under the Library Services and Technology Act and in partnership with Academic Libraries of Indiana.)

How to use databases in your life
Think medical research, business research, professional development, consumer research, or academic research.

In the next part to this series, I’ll share ways you can databases to your advantage. Meanwhile, if you're a writer, presenter, or sales and marketing whiz, get searching!

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