‘Tech 4’ research: Electronic Library
Accessibility to literature is crucial when researching. I recently wrote about the role of university libraries and this post’s topic relates to a different issue, but builds on the importance of library facilities.
Among the many technologies we have available these days, there are some great tools for digital library research. I know many are familiar with electronic libraries and this will sound basic and even obvious. But I also noticed that students who have access to it frequently don’t use it enough (or at all!). For this reason I decided to start the ‘tech 4′ with this ‘light’ – but hopefully helpful – topic. The perspective presented here is restricted to my own experience with ebrary. However I am sure that there are plenty of other very useful features for corporates, organizations, institutions and government, but my own experience is in the academic sphere.
Soon after I started my doctorate studies and while I was doing a preliminary literature review to develop my research proposal I came across the ebrary. When searching for a book on the university’s online catalogue I saw a link to electronic resource that connected with the ebrary website.
I use the service very frequently and like the facilities provided, but I can’t see it substituting physical libraries. Below I listed some pros and cons of adopting ebrary in your research process.
- No waiting time: Most books are available at all times as long as your university has bought the title.
- Library organization: When you sign up you will have your bookshelves available. You can then organize the books you use in your research according to topics, authors or any other system you wish.
- Highlight text and add notes: Ebrary has features such as highlighting text and adding notes, you can also copy sections and the copyright is copied with the content into your text.
- Citation manager interface: Ebrary has embedded tools that allow exportation of citation directly to citation managers such as Endnote and Mendeley.
- Access from anywhere: If you are working from home, a café or any other place where you have access to internet, ebrary (and all your bookshelves) will be available. So it saves lots of trips to the library.
- Environmental friendly: Of course… Less printed books, more trees saved!
- Internet connection: The ebrary is not like an ebook where we buy the titles, download it and read it from anywhere. To access the ebrary it is necessary to have internet connection if you are accessing a library catalogue.
- “Put back on the shelf”: Some titles will have just ‘one exemplar’, which means that while a person is using it no other person can have access. I just came across this once, with a specific book. In these cases after you use it you have to put it back on the shelf.
- Your bookshelf and the end of your studies: I have been thinking of it but haven’t checked this yet. Because my bookshelves and membership are attached to Lincoln University Library (@LincolnULibrary), I am not sure what will happen when I finish my studies. Hopefully the access to the notes will still be available.
- Varied kinds information: For text-based books the ebrary is great. Even for architecture and design books ebrary is much better than an eReader as we can easily navigate in its pages.
- Compare pages: For books where we have to go forward and backwards – such as to compare photos with maps and façades with plans – the physical book still seems to be the best option.
- Exploring: When doing research we frequently experience that feeling of going to the library to get a book and finding 50 others as good as – or even better than – the one we were looking for. This is a whole dimension of research that is lost when using ebraries.
The connection between ebraries and ebooks is also still very limited. A colleague once said that if the university decides to buy just ebooks they would have to provide eReaders. However, because of the requirement of having internet in order to access ebrary books from a catalogue, eReaders might not be the solution. I have a Sony eReader with wi-fi, but the ebrary still works much better on the computer. Therefore, unfortunately computer, tablets and smart phones are the only options available. Some books can be downloaded using the ebrary application, but that option is not available if you are assessing a library catalogue.
Considering these ‘cons’ and because of varied book styles and information requirements (text, photos, maps, plans etc.) I wonder how the BiblioTech in Santo Antonio (US) will work. Following this idea I recently heard that universities’ next move might be to buy most books in electronic versions. I particularly think they are not exclusive and both ebrary and physical books have their advantages. Ideally we should have both.
These are my impressions about the features I have been using. If you are an ebrary user you certainly your personal impressions. I would love to hear about it.