27 January 2011

It's all free!: The myth of library resources and how to get past those usenames and passwords

I can't even count the number of times I've been told something along the lines "It's free on the Internet" or "Library?  But I can just get it online".  Ask any Librarian and this is probably the most frustrating myth of the job:  Yes there are many open-source (free) resources on the Internet but the majority of the quality information comes at a cost, an often very steep cost.  As I've said before, no longer are Librarians bound to books, they are highly skilled computer wizards who work very hard behind the scenes to purchase, make accessible and maintain online resources so that their patrons can access it all without a hitch.

In the early days of the Internet and online resources Librarians had to purchase access using a usename and password meaning the end-user/patron had to have a list of these to access each individual resource.  Now, often times (though not all) Librarians have been able to work with vendors to establish IP authenticated access, put simply: Site-wide access without the username and password!

This is excellent if you're on site at your institution but I often get the question about accessing these resources from home.  Again here is where the list of username and passwords has traditionally been used; however, most larger institutions now have 'off-site' access available through the IT department.  The IT department sets you up with one username and password specifically assigned to you and once you've logged in once you can access your work files and likely the Intranet meaning: password-free access to all the library electronic resources! Talk to your IT department about whether off-site access is an option.

It's the easiest hassle-free way to get these resources, making it once again feel like it's free!  Just remember for all those resources working seamlessly for you there's a Librarian working hard behind the scenes.

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