With so many people in academics and business alike conducting research, there is an ongoing debate regarding which research is more effective. In order to address this issue, it is essential to examine the contrasting qualities of each type of research. Utilizing the library for research allows users to access sources of a high quality and limited number, while providing an additional benefit of library staff as a resource. In contrast, internet research provides sources at a lower quality and unlimited number, without the benefit of personal resources.
When most people think of library research, they may have memories of digging through piles of musty-smelling books just to find one tiny morsel of information, with a stern-faced librarian demanding everyone to shush! However, modern library research has come a long way from those nightmare inducing vaults of silence. One of the most valuable features of library research, which has remained a solid foundation for those who need accurate information is: high quality sources, which are verifiable and reliable.
Because libraries’ only reason for existence is to maintain a high level of quality information, they ensure their sources are verifiable. To verify a source, libraries conduct a system of thorough examination of the book or periodical, to certify authenticity and veracity. As a component of the verification check, librarians conduct a reliability check, to ensure the source is still valid and accepted in the particular community in which it was created (e.g. sociology, gardening, literature). Once this tedious but necessary process has been completed, the source is considered both verified and reliable. Additionally, items that are entered into the Dewey decimal system must meet very stringent standards, for acceptance (i.e. author verification and publisher vouching).
Another valuable component of library research is one that might, at first glance, seem to be a negative quality: a limited number of sources. In this age of instant information and astonishing technological advances, many times, there is too much information. Library research allows the average researcher to carefully weigh and compare the sources available through the library’s holdings. Traditionally, library holdings have been primarily print, including books, periodicals, pamphlets, and much more. However, today, many library systems include extensive electronic sources in their holdings such as online ebooks, and costly academic journal databases. These sources may be invaluable to a researcher who is in desperate need of reliable sources at no cost.
Finally, library staff are a sometimes overlooked resource of incomparable worth. Through personal experience, many librarians can offer interesting stories about how they found certain information or used it in research of their own. Additionally, library staff members typically have extensive training and education, resulting in a plethora of professional experience to offer for researchers’ use. Many times, a librarian may be the key to solving a hard-to-find research issue.
In contrast, internet research seems to be a developing source for information, which currently provides quick results of questionable authenticity. Much of the information found on the internet is of a lower quality than library research, because it has not undergone the same stringent process of verification and reliability certification. Essentially, anyone who knows how to access a free blog site or cheap website design template service can create their own web page or blog site and call it non-fiction. Unfortunately, this means that a great majority of the information found online is unverifiable, because there is almost no way to know who truly wrote or posted it. Because of the inability to verify information, it cannot be checked for ongoing reliability, resulting in lack of authenticity. As a result, much of the internet research is not considered appropriate for use in many academic and business circles.
Another problem with internet research is the fact that there is just too much of it. As previously mentioned, anyone can create a blog site or web page, and there are billions of people on the planet at any given time, so the chance for an inordinate amount of information is inescapably high. Because there is so much information available on the internet, many researchers may find it cumbersome to carefully weed out the unverifiable and unreliable sources, just to find the gems of truth hidden within their six-figure search results.
Finally, the most important ingredient provided by library research – personal contact with a librarian – is nonexistent in internet research. Because the internet is located in “cyberspace” – a fictional, nonexistent world – it is impossible to have personal with those who create the information, store the information, or maintain the information. Although there are “real” people out there somewhere, the typical internet research process does not allow the user any way to contact them.
Although there are some valuable overlaps in library research and internet research like authenticated, certified websites with URL extensions such as .org, and .edu, the overall reality is that library research still eclipses internet research. If a researcher is on a quest for verifiable, reliable sources of information, which comes with the bonus of limited numbers and personal contact with knowledgeable staff, the library is certainly the place to go. Besides, libraries provide computers; so those who still want to conduct internet research can just do it there.
LIBRARY RESEARCH AND INTERNET RESEARCH CONTRAST
Source quality high
Limited number of sources
Library staff as a resource
Source quality low
Unlimited number of sources
Difficult to determine relevance
No personal resources