Cyberlibraries: Digital Collections of Electronic Books, Journals and Reference Works

A visit to the local library takes on new meaning in the digital age, thanks to the abundance of resources available on the Internet. Open 24/7, holidays included, cyberlibraries provide electronic access to information about any topic imaginable. There's still no substitute for thumbing through the actual pages of a
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A visit to the local library takes on new meaning in the digital age, thanks to the abundance of resources available on the Internet. Open 24/7, holidays included, cyberlibraries provide electronic access to information about any topic imaginable. There's still no substitute for thumbing through the actual pages of a favorite novel retrieved from a library shelf. But electronic libraries yield such a treasure chest of riches, you'll be tempted to throw away your school library card.

The Internet Public Library

Hosted by the University of Michigan's School of Information, the Internet Public Library (IPL) boasts over 20,000 books available online free of charge. "Reading Room" texts, which include the works of famous authors, poets and playwrights (like William Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, Jane Austen, Virgil, Chaucer and Leonardo da Vinci), are searchable by title, author, and subject. Other library goodies include several subject collections (e.g., arts & humanities, business, computers, social science, etc.), almanacs, calendars, dictionaries and a link to Project Gutenberg with 6000 titles and reference works. There are special IPL areas devoted to young children and teens. In Kidspace (for children age 13 or younger) for example, youngsters can submit questions they want answered or accompany Ophelia Owl and Parsifal Penguin on virtual fieldtrips around the world.

Virtual Reference Shelf

At this information-rich online Reference desk compiled by the Library of Congress, you can explore several subject areas arranged alphabetically for easy access. There are links to almanacs, calculators, clocks, encyclopedias, quotations, health/medical topics, and much more. The Language and Literature section for example, links to goodies such as Aesop's Fables online, APA Electronic Reference formats, plus Quoteland quotable quotes. A Recently added section for "Children, Teachers, and Parents" provides URL connections to Federal Resources for Educational Excellence, Library of Congress Live, and FirstGov for Kids (a portal to Federal Web sites for young children).

Librarians' Index to the Internet

Librarians get to show you how helpful they can be at this searchable subject directory with annotated descriptions of nearly 10,000 Internet resources. Before the Librarians' Index (LII) lists a site, staff librarians review it at least twice, so you can be sure there are no surprises when you pop in for a visit. Site links are provided as a service to ensure that you and your students visit only "reliable, trustworthy, librarian-selected Internet resources." Topics include Arts & Humanities, Government & Law, Computers & Internet, News Magazine & Media, Society & Social Issues, and many more.


This portal to more Web-based information than you'll ever have time to view rewards curiosity and puts the fun back in browsing. You only have to follow items of interest. The comprehensive "rationally indexed" and user-friendly online reference features Internet Beginner's Guides & Tutorials, a Site of the Day, resources to combat Pop-ups, SPAM and Spyware, thumbnail snapshots of fast facts and quick reference items, US and world newspapers, a subject index with more than 24 subject categories, plus a Facts Encyclopedia with over 70 volumes of indexed subjects. Other site goodies include resources for folks who use the Windows Operating System, a Daily Almanac, weather links, and Best of the Net URLS. There's a nugget behind every point and click. Take a tour of what's available and see for yourself at the Mission Statement.

United States National Library of Medicine

Good for what ails you, this Web site hosted by the National Institutes of Health provides a comprehensive health reference. Let your fingers do the walking as you explore its numerous medical articles and databases, online exhibits (at the time of this review there was a special exhibit on the lives and achievements of U.S. women physicians), resources on the History of Medicine, and materials about the human genome resources. You can ask questions of the reference staff, explore the personal papers of Nobel Prize winning scientist Joshua Lederberg, read about current health news, research topics of toxicology and environmental health and much more. Students interested in human anatomy should "head" for the Visible Human Project, to view 3D representations of male and female bodies complete with anatomical cross-section images.


Developed and supported by several "partners," including the Library at the University of California, Riverside, Institute of Museum and Library services, National Science Digital Library (NSDL) and U.S. Department of Education, this goldmine of Internet-accessible information links to several search tools and general topics such as Business & Economics, Cultural Diversity, electronic journals, Maps & GIS and SocSci and Humanities. You'll also want to explore NSF's NSDL web site to access a virtual library of science, technology engineering and mathematics resources. Great Books Online

More than just a convenient online source for free books (fiction and non-fiction), poetry and reference materials, includes several information and reference tools. Its library of holdings can be accessed easily through full-text searches (title, subject, and author) and hyperlinked cross-references. You can download dictionaries and thesauri and consult up-to date editions of the Columbia Encyclopedia. Other site treasures include the complete 70-volume Harvard Classics collection, the works of William Shakespeare, plus a searchable database containing over 370,000 indexed Web pages, 86,000 quotations, and more than 10,000 poems.


Winner of over 30 awards and honors (including the coveted "best-of-the-best" reference category), LibrarySpot serves as a gateway to quality information on the Internet. Offering links to numerous online libraries, high-quality online texts, encyclopedias, dictionaries, periodicals, quotations, and much more, it's designed for quick information retrieval. On its Home page you can choose from several Must-See sites, articles, lists, and interesting "did you know" facts. You'll also find a Reading Room area with links to books, headlines, journals, library criticism, newspapers, poetry and speeches. Its Reference Desk area functions much like the Reference Desk at conventional libraries with resources such as acronyms, Ask an Expert opportunities, biographies, calculators, Quotations, White and Yellow Pages, and Zip codes.


Think of Mark Harden's Artchive as a virtual art gallery of famous paintings. You get to view thumbnail-size reproductions and full-size JPEG scans of masterpieces by Vermeer, Monet, Rembrandt, Kandinsky, Pollard and nearly 200 other artists. You can read art exhibit reviews, learn more about art theory, browse art criticisms and view artist biographies. While you're visiting, be sure explore the site's many virtual exhibits showcasing the work of Goya, Rembrandt and the 1874 Impressionist Exhibition in Paris. There's also a Sculpture Garden area with images of Egyptian, Greek, African, Renaissance, Baroque and Modern works. The only thing missing is the sound of water fountains gurgling in the museum foyer.


Need help finding books or articles for research assignments? Search tools at RedLightGreen comb through 120 million books to find resources that best match your search criteria. Search by keyword, author/title, or ISBN. Follow links to full citations and other links to more information about the search topic. With matches ranked in order of relevance, it's a quick point-and-click to an abundance of important research materials.

Resources for the Bibliominded

Owned and maintained by Mary Niederlander, a library technician who works in a NY hospital medical library, provides a wealth of tools and links for librarians, library paraprofessionals, and the many patrons who make use of what libraries have to offer. For example, Resources for the Bibliominded (one of many pages hosted at the site), serves as a portal to numerous Web-based reading resources, including book sites, full-text resources, children's book sites, articles about books and authors, and links for storytellers.

Best Free Reference Web Sites 2003, Fifth Annual List, RUSA Machine-Assisted Reference Section (MARS)

If the American Library Association (ALA) had its way, there would be more libraries in the United States that deliver quality information services. Pages at this site provide a variety of librarian-created resources designed to inform and entertain. For example, ALA's Best Free Reference Webs Sites of 2003 compiles a list of 30+ outstanding Web-based reference sites with information on a variety of topics ranging from AIDS to the Weather Underground and a link to the Online Books Page with a searchable database of 20,000+ book titles available online.

Carol S. Holzberg, PhD



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