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Primo is a powerful discovery tool for resources which are owned or subscribed to by the library, but the internet can be useful to your studies as well. Our librarians can advise you on how best to make use of the internet as a search tool. They can also advise on what not to do in order to keep your search safe and effective.

It has been said that google can provide you with hundreds of thousands of answers, but a librarian can help you find the right one.

Library vs Internet: 10 good reasons to use the library

Adapted from Mark Herring's 10 Reasons Why the Internet is No Substitute for a Library, American Libraries, April 2001, p.76-78 and Joyce B. Radcliff (Serials Librarian, Tennessee State University)

The Internet is not a substitute for the library, but a search tool to be used in addition to sources available in or through the library.

1. Everything is not on the internet

The Internet consists of a small percentage of what's published. Search engines such as Google, AltaVista, and Yahoo are access-limited. The Information Research Journal reports that less than 20% of all journals are available open access on the Internet. This situation is currently in a state of flux while researchers get to grips with new regulations around open access publishing of their research And while many classic or out-of-copyright books are now available, far fewer current publications in books are available in this way.  The most reliable scholarly information is available in books and journals.  Your Subject Librarian can help you to start formulating your search for open access information to complement what you find via Primo.  

2. The internet is not organized

There is no system that catalogues and organizes all resources on the Internet.   A search on the Internet is similar to doing a free-text search in a huge document.  When you use any of the search engines, you're searching only part of the Internet.  It can be tricky to formulate a search which really gives you the best information for your research, and unproductive searches can cause a lot of wasted time, frustration and confusion.

3. The internet doesn't have quality control

Quality control isn't easy to achieve on the Internet.  Anyone with access to the Internet can publish a Website, and errors can easily be perpetuated.

4. Sources on the internet are harder to identify

When using information on the internet, it is hard to tell who's telling you what and what is the source of the information. When you use information from the Internet in your work, you need to reference it in the same way as any other source you use. Information taken from the internet can change. Information taken from the library or databases supplied through the library have stability. Help in citing and referencing internet sources can be found in Cite them Right Online. Make an appointment with the Subject Librarian team. Also watch out for our drop-in workshops on referencing.

5. Library online resources are available 24/7

Online databases can be accessed 24 hours a day 7 days a week via Primo, our online catalogue. These databases are in the library's collection and can be accessed wherever you have access to the Internet. Searching the library's databases via Primo gives access to a very different range of material to searching the internet via Google.

6. Make use of the resources available to you as a St Mary's student

Take advantage of the scholarly materials available to you as a St Mary's student.  Libraries provide free access to scholarly books, journals, newspapers, encyclopedias, and other online and print reference sources.  A lot of information on the Internet is FREE, but for most scholarly materials, a paid subscription is required to access. St Mary's provides that for you.

7. Trained professional librarians available for assistance

Knowledgeable and friendly librarians are available to assist with locating information in person, e-mail or by telephone. If you request assistance at the beginning of your research your research time and internet or Primo searches will be much more focussed.

8. E-books are available

E-books are full-text and searchable. Text can be searched automatically, and cross-referenced using hyperlinks.  St Mary's library now has more e-books than print books. Search for these using Primo, and don't forget to ask your librarian if you need help.

9. The internet has fewer archival materials (but this is changing)

The library has older materials than the Internet. Digitalization that goes back more than 10-15 years is less common and can be difficult to locate on the Internet, although this situation is changing. The Internet provides timely information, and is constantly updated. But there are now more and more historic books and journals available, but again, tracking them down can be tricky. Ask your librarian.

10. Do library-less universities work?

A virtual library cannot replace the traditional library. Two California libraries (Monterey and California Polytechnic University) attempted this method, only to find out first hand that it doesn't work. They found out that everything is not available open access, and the library is more than just a building.

Make the best use of your St Mary's Library and the staff who are here to help you.