By Karen Danczak Lyons, Library Director
The breadth and depth of reference materials at the Evanston Public Library is outstanding – but most don’t know how much of it is digital. Being able to provide the entire community with access to credible information resources is a crucial role of any library. For good research options across myriad subjects, the Library provides local and remote access to nearly 70 digital reference resources … none of which are called Wikipedia.
There are currently more than 1 billion websites on the internet, many of which are protected by free speech and anti-censorship laws. The web isn’t regulated for quality or accuracy; so, it is up to the user to ensure the information they pull rings of truth. Authorship of sources can be difficult, and authors may represent opinions as fact. Even Wikipedia needs to be viewed with a sharp eye.
But through the library, users can access many digital reference tools are not available to everyone on the internet. They might only be offered to institutions, or they may only be accessed for a fee. Libraries provide communities access to seemingly unlimited pools of free information, developing literacy, powering student achievement, and opening channels of knowledge. Whether one is newly acquainted to our electronic resources or is an expert researcher, the skilled professional librarians at EPL are highly trained information navigators.
Importantly, these resources are of the highest credibility. Many of these resources are peer reviewed, the information you find in them is not only written by professionals but has been reviewed and approved by other professionals within their field.
If you want to review historical news articles, we have access to the archives of the Chicago Tribune, the Evanston Review and women’s magazines dating back to the 19th century. If interested in genealogy, there’s access to AfriGeneas, Ancestry.com, FamilySearch and MyHeritage. And for the business researcher, there is Mergent Intellect, MorningStar Investment Research Center and the Small Business Reference Center. Of course, there also are databases which allow you to search for books. A final benefit is that most of the content in the reference portals is rights-cleared for educational use.
So, explore the depth and breadth of the Library’s reference materials. Whether you want to turn pages or click links, explore how to start a business or get an old engine started, access to credible content is available to the whole community.
Karen Danczak Lyons has been the director of the Evanston Public Library for six years. The library was founded in 1873 and serves a highly-diverse and evolving community. More than 1,600 people use its resources and services every day.