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From Ancient Alexandria to Modern Resources 2.0: Finding Digital Libraries for Your Business

by Jill Foster on May 6, 2009

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Guest post from Mary Fumento, regular guest contributor to Women Grow Business and a librarian by trade. She thinks and breathes digital libraries, resources, and technology. And on a great day, she writes about it all. Best yet, she likes to explain these resources to others on how they can help their work or enterprise.

Recession-proof resources for your company
So your Lexis-Nexis budget has been slashed, the contracted graphics team is too expensive to use, and your research money disappeared when the good times stopped rolling. Where does a small business owner go for inexpensive resources? Try the nearest digital library – via the computer you’re using to read this post!

Resources for your business: the new digital library
Granted, the loss of the ancient texts from the Library of Alexandria (libraries, actually…) will never be compensable. Still, that collection was only available to a tiny portion of the population.

But today, by replacing papyrus and paper with pixels, we all have access to massive and growing collections of not just books but a vast variety of other data.

The UN and the World Digital Library
Just recently, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and 32 partner institutions launched the World Digital Library. Its website offers free access to priceless rare material from around the world, including books, manuscripts, films, photographs and maps. After Google Book Search and the EU’s new Europeana, it is the world’s third major digital library. That is, unless you also include something called “The Internet.”

Meanwhile, “brick” libraries around the world, including that in modern Alexandria, are adding “click” collections and often making them available for free. The New York Public Library Digital Gallery, for instance, houses 685,000 images digitized from the physical library’s collection.

In addition to not forcing you to fly Egyptian Air
…digital libraries are open 24/7 and allow easy searches and instant retrieval. Your item will never be checked out or misplaced somewhere next to the Ark of the Covenant. If it weren’t such a cliché you could call it “the world at your fingertips” (but it is … so don’t).

And while some [digital libraries] do require a subscription or a per-view charge, most are wonderfully and marvelously totally free. Who says you only get what you pay for?

Some offerings may not be available from your own computer but still be as close as your public library. It’s loaded with digital business tools (aside from the skilled librarians waiting in person to assist you) requiring no more “payment” than flashing that pretty library card.

Universities make tremendous tools available for your business.
Many of them are free to non-affiliates. And if they cheekily insist you be a registered student, see above. They may have an arrangement with your public library.

But you can usually access what you’re looking for while at home in your pajamas. Or if it’s not in your pajamas, then it’s on the Web. Check out, for example, the University of Florida Business Library 2.0 with links to a zillion databases – give or take. Everything from Accounting Research Manager (Exciting stuff and you have to subscribe!) to Wharton Research Data Services.

Other vast databases of databases include such as Bookmarkysync and World Cat — with 1.4 billion items available not just on your computer but on your cell phone.

What are you waiting for? Take a break from tweeting and start reading!

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