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Public library, Internet an information team

By Audrey Betcher

I am often asked if libraries will become obsolete with the advent of the Internet. I answer with a confident "No."

The Internet has changed how we provide answers to information seekers, but the Internet is a long way from being able to replace libraries. Libraries are not just storehouses for books and information; libraries are community builders.

The Rochester Public Library is a safe community gathering place where early literacy and critical reading skills are fostered and nurtured for life-long learning. The library is an economic development driver helping businesses and employees succeed, and it is a building block for our democratic system of government, providing resources and forums to engage and inform the citizenry. The library is a place where diverse ideas and wisdom are sought and honored, and users are inspired and empowered to achieve.

April 15-21 is National Library Week, a time when libraries and the people who use them come together to celebrate the contributions of libraries, librarians and library workers in our nation’s schools, campuses and communities.

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 Again the question persists "But what about the Internet? With such easy, convenient and fast search engines right at our fingertips, why does the community need the public library?"

The library provides access to a deeper level of information sources than are available on the Internet through the library’s newly updated Web site www.RochesterPublicLibrary.org. Copyright and licensing restrictions prevent much authoritative information from being freely and publicly available on the Internet, so if it is available, it may cost money. The library, through your tax dollars, has paid the licensing fees to make many more powerful resources available to you not only from the library, but also conveniently from your home and/or office.

By following the "Reference and Magazines" link at the top of the library’s homepage you can access subscription databases of magazine, journal and newspaper articles and many other resources.

Did you know that from the library Web site you can:

• Take practice tests for the ACT, SAT, GED, nursing, firefighting, TOEFL, elementary, middle school, and high school skills, and many more.

• Read more than 150 newspapers online. This includes the Wall Street Journal, New York Times (you can even read the New York Times back to 1851), and the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

• Consult car repair manuals. You have access to information on every major manufacturer of domestic and imported vehicles.

• Get articles from thousands of magazines and journals.

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• Research your genealogy with such well-known resources as Heritage Quest.

• Obtain many, many useful resources for students to use for school work, such as biographies, literary criticism, and encyclopedias.

The  Rochester Public Library’s Web site also allows you to search for the books, DVDs, audiobooks, software, and other materials owned by the library. You can place reserves for items in our collection and request inter-library loans for materials from other libraries’ collections.

You can view the events calendar, register for a library card online, and even "check out" digital items from our new eMedia collection of downloadable audiobooks, music and film at Digital.RochesterPublicLibrary.org.

I would also contend that the most powerful search engines are the professional librarians that staff our reference desk. All of the librarians have master’s degrees in Library and Information Science and they are specialists in information seeking.

They will help you find the information you are seeking, whether it is available on the Internet, in licensed online resources, or in a book at the library.

You can contact reference librarians by coming to the library, by phoning the reference desk at 285-8002, by emailing them at reference@rochester.lib.mn.us or by sending an instant message at RPLmnInfo (Yahoo AIM) during open hours.

These librarians can assist you in sorting though the thousands of hits that a Google search renders to determine if the sources are accurate, relevant, and current. They will assist you in many ways to find that detailed kernel of information that you need.

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  Rather than rendering the library obsolete, the Internet has revolutionized the library and provided librarians with stronger tools to empower you and to enrich your life.

Audrey Betcher is the Director of the Rochester Public Library.

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