Can’t Get to the Library? e-global to the Rescue!

With the expanding availability of scholarly content online, the academic library is evolving from a book and periodical repository to an information center where—in addition to thumbing through books in the old-fashioned way—students can access databases, arrange inter-library loans, and scan electronic documents. Along with the explosion in the types of resources available, libraries are struggling to accommodate a growing number of distance learning students who need library resources just as much as their on-campus counterparts. To meet this need, a number of purveyors have launched sites designed to provide one-stop solutions. One, e-global library from JonesKnowledge.com, supplements brick and mortar libraries with extensive online content, search capabilities, tutorials, and databases, as well as one-on-one customized assistance from trained librarians.

Jones e-global library (www.egloballibrary.com) is an enhanced version of the virtual library originally developed for Jones International University, the first accredited fully online university. The library is managed by a team of thirty professional librarians, and offers resources in three core academic areas: humanities, social sciences, and science and technology. The team also includes business librarians who contribute expertise in that area. Designed primarily to support libraries at universities with a growing number of distance learning students, e-global library is as much an online librarian as an online library.

In order to provide substantial support to existing academic libraries, the staff at e-global library has developed a multi-tiered approach to guiding students through the research process. Online tutorials explain such basics as how to use a library (both real and virtual), ways to access electronic databases, and the ins and outs of the Internet. At the next level, research guides help students find resources in areas that may be unfamiliar to them. Currently e-global offers 65 guides across the curriculum, and plans to add up to 70 more per year. The guides are topic-specific listings of the most authoritative sources online, whether books, articles, or Web sites. Many of these sources are available in full-text versions, and a separate Internet Resources section of the site bulks out the research guide list, giving students broader options for online content. e-global library boasts a vast government resources section as well, where students can find census data, import/export figures, research results, and survey information.

Also available through the e-global site are optional features, including research databases searchable by title, author, subject, or keyword. These are compendiums of information on hundreds of academic and business topics. In addition, the site offers a document delivery service that retrieves full-text documents that are not available free of charge on the Web and a reference desk to which students can turn for answers to specific questions. The reference desk promises a response from a qualified librarian within 24 hours, and most requests are answered within two hours.

Varied Approaches to Managing Digital Content

Harcourt e-Learning Online Library, catering to the academic market, features multiple databases containing entries from periodicals, public policy reports, and other sources; thousands of articles covering the social sciences and humanities; links to reference works, currency converters, and statistics as well as annotated Web links; and more than 1,000 nonfiction electronic academic books. The “Ask a Librarian” feature helps with short, factual questions, but isn’t available for in-depth guidance. http://www.thomsonelearning.com

EBSCO Online provides Web-based access to a vast electronic journal collection. Users can access entire articles from more than 4,000 electronic journals, newspapers, reference books, and other sources, searching the tables of contents, abstracts, or full text. Library administrators can identify, acquire, access, and manage electronic journals efficiently from the site. www.ebsco.com

Questia, a subscription-based service for undergraduates, catalogs thousands of online books, articles, and encyclopedias. Users can search, bookmark, highlight, and jot margin notes while reading and use an online notepad to compose papers. A citation feature automatically creates footnotes and bibliographies. Questia’s model may appeal particularly to distance learning students willing to pay for convenient access to scholarly material. www.questia.com

XanEdu ReSearch Engine, an online wealth of newspapers, periodicals, journals, and dissertations (no books), is also subscription-based. Along with a broad range of academic subject areas, subscribers gain access to online extras including Leisure Interests Channel, Encyclopedia Britannica, and Best of the Web. Users navigate more than 12,000 topic trees to find information. www.infolearning.com

netLibrary focuses exclusively on books. With a target audience of libraries and academics, netLibrary emphasizes the delivery of online scholarly and reference content as well as textbooks through its MetaText electronic textbook initiative. netLibrary’s collection includes more than 3,500 classic works of fiction, speeches, government reports, and other electronic texts. www.netlibrary.com

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