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Finding information isn’t difficult. We can talk to friends, watch TV, listen to the radio, read the newspaper, etc. Not to disparage this easy information (or even the recreational aspects), but it is ephemeral. At some point, everyone needs to find information (or recreation) that’s nailed down, so to speak, in a form that can be consulted. Here’s one librarian’s view of when to look for more or less permanently preserved on the Internet, the bookstore (or for that matter, a record store, etc.), or the library. I’m not making any attempt to be comprehensive here. Let me know if you think I’ve left out something important. I can always edit!
Use the Internet if
- You need to do quick fact checking.
- You need to keep up with current events or, especially, breaking news
- You need to look for specific information on a company’s (city’s, state’s, university’s, hospital’s, etc.) web site.
- You have a fairly clear idea of what you want to know and how to find it.
- You can find the full text of a book, article, or other authoritative source for free online.
- You want to download an eBook to your Kindle or similar device.
- You want to buy a book (etc.) that’s not available at a bookstore.
Use the bookstore if
- You want to own and keep a physical book (or, if you can still find them, record, movie on DVD, etc.) and use it for a long period of time. (I know. There are all kinds of online stores, but I have to organize these lists somehow!)
- If you want to be able to browse a broad category.
- You like to write notes or otherwise mark in what you read.
Use the library if
- You’re not quite sure what you need. Speaking with a reference librarian can clarify your needs very efficiently.
- You need help evaluating sources for some kind of research project.
- The book (etc.) you want is no longer available from the publisher (out of print) and you can’t find a reasonably priced used copy either at a brick and mortar store or online.
- You want to borrow an eBook for your Kindle or similar device and not have to pay for it.
- You need to investigate full-text articles that are not available free on the Internet, but only available through an expensive proprietary database.
- You need to learn how to use a computer or particular software or peripheral.