From the Beacon: Free computer services to help you keep those resolutions

"It is always during a passing state of mind that we make lasting resolutions," quipped novelist Marcel Proust. Proust died in 1922, decades before the Internet improved the prospect of lasting resolutions far beyond his then-justified cynicism. Not that Facebook or YouTube or chat rooms would have held much appeal to the man. No, there are much richer enticements, worthier of his intellect and of you who are reading this column.

To upgrade your computer from a mere Web browser to a free "virtual library and classroom" worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, all you need to do is become a registered borrower of the Beaufort County Library system. You won't find these treasures on Google and each item can support a specific New Year's resolution. For instance:

Resolution 1: "I want to update my list of telephone numbers and addresses."

For both personal and business contacts, ReferenceUSA has 14 million business and 100 million residential listings in the United States, in a constantly-updated database. Search by name, address, zip code and other variables. The business entries provide not only the address and telephone numbers, but names of corporate officers and valuable data about the companies in many cases. ReferenceUSA is a gift from the Friends of the Hilton Head Library.

Resolution 2: "2010 is the year I learn a foreign language."

From Afrikaans to Zulu, BYKI ("Before You Know It") gets you started in over 70 languages, with tests for word recognition, pronunciation and listening ability. English as a Second Language lessons also are available to speakers of Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, Korean, Chinese and Japanese. Stop by a Beaufort County Library location to set up your account.

Resolution 3: "I want take that big test this year for school/a better job."

Whatever your goal, Learning Express Library has a Learning Center for you: students (elementary school through college, SAT and GED), computer skills, job skills and information, adult skill-building, even U.S. Citizenship and resources for Spanish speakers. Practice tests grade your results and explain your errors.

Resolution 4: "It's high time I took up a hobby."

There is something for everyone at the EBSCOHost Hobbies and Crafts, Home Repair and Auto Repair Reference Centers.

Resolution 5: "I'd really like to read more this year."

From NetLibrary, you can choose from a large selection of e-audiobooks and e-book texts to download to your PC or portable players. As for BYKI, it takes only a visit to a Beaufort County Library branch to set up your account.

If yours happens to be a resolution of another stripe, there are many other resources for health, financial, business and other information -- and all free. Resolve to visit your nearest library branch soon.