There is a difference between the Internet and Internet accessible databases.
The Internet is a worldwide system of computer networks. When you search the Internet through search engines like Google, you are searching the “free” areas of the Internet. Your results will be a list of web sites. Anyone can put up a web site, so you have to evaluate the web site (use the OCRAAP test) in order to determine if the information is accurate and reliable.
Libraries provide access to several databases that are accessible through the Internet. These databases are not free. The library subscribes to these databases for a fee and then provides access to them for our patrons. These databases contain information such as newspaper, magazine, and encyclopedia articles. The materials come from publishers, so they have been checked for accuracy and reliability. Some publishers are no longer providing information in a printed format. The only way to get the information now, which was previously supplied in print, is through an online database. Several of the databases come from print sources that publishers are now also selling in an online format. For example, an article that you read from the Los Angeles Times through a database it will be the same article that was printed in the Los Angeles Times newspaper. The databases do not always have every article from the magazines or newspapers that they cover, and they do not include advertisements. Some of them only provide an abstract, or short paragraph, from the article instead of the full-text. In this case, you would have to go to the print source to get a copy of the full article.
When do I use the Internet and when do I use a database?
Use the Internet when you:
- Are willing to evaluate the web site's content
- Want to go to a specific web site
- Want information on a unique topic
- Want government information such as tax forms
- Want other world-wide sites
The Internet does have some excellent information - including some information that is not available anywhere else. You just have to be willing to sort through the information and determine what is reliable. The internet can be used for homework, research, and for fun.
Use databases when you want:
- Newspaper articles
- Magazine articles
- Encyclopedia articles
- Biographical information
- Statistical information
You can sometimes get the exact same article from the print source, but it might be easier for you to get it from a database. Some databases are available from home with a library card number (if you have a computer with Internet access), so you don't have to come to the library to get a copy of the article.
-from the Los Angeles Public Library