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University of Texas University of Texas Libraries

Copyright Crash Course

Building on Existing Works

Accessing Library Resources

So what's the library have that Google doesn't?

Not having been born digital myself, I never cease to be amazed when a question occurs to me, I think, "I'll Google it," and a minute later I'm reading an answer within the first couple of links off the results page. Is this pretty incredible or what? I've always been a "let's find out" kind of person, not really content not knowing. Google, Bing, and Yahoo are able to satisfy my curiosity about 99% of the time. When they can't, I usually don't have to care too much about it. A lot of my questions don't really have to be answered.

But I do have some questions that have to be answered, and that aren't so easy because what I need to answer them is buried in the invisible web - the networked mass of information that's not living in web pages, but resides a level below in structured forms like databases. Most search engines don't reach these resources directly, but they are there, on the web. Your library probably knows about and has access to millions of dollars worth of databases full of information that might very well contain just what you need to answer a tough question, but you won't know it unless you take the time to learn more about the invisible web.

The other day I needed to know the answer to what seemed like a simple question, but Google couldn't help me. The question was, "what are the top ranked journals in the field of nursing?" Simple enough, right? Well, the answer is there, it's just not in the visible web. It's in a database that, if I knew the name of it, I could Google that, and then query the database. But I didn't know the name of it or even that it existed. Simple thing. I needed an expert. Lucky for me, I know one. Her name is Roxanne Bogucka and she had my answer for me, and I'm not kidding, in about 45 seconds.

Can anyone ask Roxanne a question and will she know the answer to everything? Well, no. She's a subject matter specialist in nursing and nutritional sciences, so those are the resources she's got a handle on. But there are about 40 others just like her at UT Austin, each with their own subject matter area, and you can email them, they do chat, or you can even actually go see them if you want to. They are your librarians and they can help you access millions of works that you can then build upon - that's the way new knowledge is created.

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