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Goshen Public Library and Historical Society

Across the Reference Desk

by Anita Whitehead

February 16, 2000

If you believe television advertising, EVERYTHING is on the Internet. In reality, this is not the case, and people can spend hours fruitlessly searching the web for answers. So how do you decide whether to log on or visit the library for a book?

Jerry Kuntz, from the Ramapo Catskill Library System (RCLS) has answered this question quite clearly. He is the creator of KidsClick!, a marvelous website for safe exploration the Internet. There are lots of search tips and pointers for easy Internet use, so take a look at This is his explanation of what is NOT on the Internet.

What's NOT on the Web

5ometimes, the best advice about searching the Internet is NOT to search the Internet! Many people--adults and kids--believe that the Internet is a giant library or encyclopedia that contains everything, and that you can find it for free. This is wrong on two counts: 1) there's a lot of information on the Internet that costs money to get to; and 2) there's a lot of information that isn't on the Internet at all.

Many people make their living by uncovering facts, writing about things they've learned, dreaming up stories, creating inventions, making beautiful works of art and music, using cameras to capture wonderful images, and drawing their ideas on paper. They do this full time, as a job, not a hobby. They can't afford to give away their efforts for free. This is why you won't often find things on the Internet such as:

When you do find things like these on the Internet, you also might also find that a special password or number is required before you can see them. Usually, this means that you have to pay before you can see them. It's becoming more common that your school or public library has paid these fees for you, but that you can only use them on the school's or library's Internet computers; or that you have to type in your library card number. 5o don't be surprised if you see things on the school or library computer that you wouldn't be able to get to on a home computer.

Also, it may be quite a few years before computer displays will become as portable, as durable, and as pleasing to read as print on paper. That's why you can't yet say that books aren't needed, or that libraries that house books are obsolete.

It takes money to convert printed papers and photographs into web pages. So another category of items that is only slowly making its way onto the Internet are local history accounts; historic photographs; and the back issues of small local newspapers. Until more progress is made, historical societies, local museums, local historians, and the local history departments of public libraries are still the best places to find this type of information.

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