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December 21, 2010 > Alameda County Library News: Library research, technology, and love

Alameda County Library News: Library research, technology, and love

By Lili Khalili, Reference Staff, Union City Library

The Tri-City Libraries located in Fremont, Newark, and Union City offer a total of 159 open hours. The Union City branch is open 47 hours per week. The reference staff meets an average of 12 library members face-to-face each hour at the information desk. Not all of these members need extensive research assistance, but many are unaware of the varied online resources available to them with their Alameda County Library card. The reference librarian shows them how to easily retrieve information from articles related to their search topic. For people who prefer not to leave home, 90 percent of these online resources are available 24/7 through home access with a valid library card. The increased accessibility, efficiency, and volume of online information available today are things that one should not take lightly.

I remember the first time I had to use a periodical index to work on a research project. I was so disappointed after spending a long time pouring through vast printed tomes looking for information. All I ended up with was a list of publications, article titles, and dates of publication; for the actual articles I had to search through reels of microfilm or micro fiche and make copies on special large library equipment.

Upon my return some time later, I was amazed to find that the college library had acquired a digital version of the periodical index. Today on our Alameda County Library website at www.aclibrary.org we now offer a digital version allowing access to thousands of articles with just a click of the mouse. It is found under the link Articles and Databases. This link is found under the Research tab on the blue menu bar. For a personalized guided tour of the many online resources available to you, come to any branch library and stop at the information desk.

Research topics can be as varied as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For example, take the subject of love. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the best selling narrative "Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, Indonesia and India," spent time researching love and marriage while working on a sequel which she titled "Committed." "Committed" continues where "Eat, Pray, Love" stops with the author facing a dilemma. U.S. immigration officials have given Elizabeth and her Brazilian-born lover, Felipe, an ultimatum: they must marry or Felipe cannot enter the country again. In "Committed" she tackles her fear of marriage by trying to discover through research, interviews, and personal reflection what this old institution actually is.

Using the library's online Articles and Databases to search for the subject "love" in the Academic Journals database, I was able to find 8,999 articles. When I limited the results to full text articles only, the numbers are reduced to 2,604 articles, and if I change the search parameters to include the subject "marriage" as well, I find 665 related to love and marriage. Browsing through some of these articles or subject headings allows me to narrow, change or modify my search in less than five minutes. Finding articles online is not difficult, but finding the best key words and compiling a collection of articles that support one's ideas can take from four hours to one year depending on the breadth of your research project.

There are a few databases on our website that are especially noteworthy. If you (like Elizabeth Gilbert) are traveling abroad to heal yourself and write your first best seller, perhaps you would like to try the library's Mango Database to begin learning a different language. Mango offers video instruction for learning 22 foreign languages for English speakers. This is a self-paced video instruction program that covers basic level language learning and progresses all the way to advanced communication skills. It is accessible from home or at the library.

USA Learns offers self-paced video instruction for new immigrants who want to learn English on their own. (Members may borrow headphones at the information desk for use in the library.) These online programs complement the over 700 DVD s and books available for checkout at the County Library for learning foreign languages. For a few new, high demand languages likeTurkish or Farsi, Mango is the best choice because there are not many books or DVDs published for learning them.

Another important database, Medline Plus, is one of the most trusted sites on the Internet. It's a free, tax-supported source of authoritative health and disease information from the National Library of Medicine. This database is divided in three important sections:

- Health Topics: Read about symptoms, causes, treatment, and prevention for over 800 diseases, illnesses, health conditions, and wellness issues. Medline Plus health topics are regularly reviewed, and links are updated daily.

- Drugs: By typing the name of a drug, one can learn about the side effects, dosage, special precaution and more.

- Interactive health tutorials: Created by the Patient Education Institute; one can learn about the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment for a variety of diseases and conditions. Also learn about surgeries, prevention, and wellness. Each topic includes animated graphics, audio, and easy to read description. Medline Plus is also available in Spanish.


Lastly, I would like to mention ReferenceUSA, a database that we use to help job seekers and job changers locate relevant companies, and small business owners find out about their competitors.

The above are samples of our database resources that are only available through the internet with the library card. They are mostly subscription databases and cannot be found just by surfing the internet. They are organized and compiled by special subject librarians in a variety of searching modes.

Visit us during open hours at the library to learn about online resources, and if you have a computer at home with Internet access try the Library website, www.aclibrary.org; under the research tab click on the link Articles and Databases. They are available 24/7.

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