From the Beacon: Library offers free virtual resources

'Charity begins, but doth not end, at home," Thomas Fuller wrote in 1659. For librarians, learning begins in the library and is shared with our customers.

Librarians also find that knowledge begins in the library. They learn from each other, because there are too many kinds of information for any one person to know everything. This was true in the days when "information" meant only books, magazines and newspapers, and more so now in the Internet Age.

For instance, the Beaufort County Library provides a vast virtual library to each person who has a library card -- millions of online articles, recorded books and lessons in a wide range of topics and age levels.

These resources are "subscription databases" that would normally cost thousands of dollars a year, but our registered borrowers can access them free of charge from their home and office computers. Instructions are available on request at your nearest branch library location.

There are so many databases that the library developed a "Database du Jour" series of daily tutorials, each highlighting a specific online resource with a role-playing exercise. Those who would like to share these lessons -- and marvel at the variety of selections -- may visit is a sample from the website:

Encyclopedias (Online): Four encyclopedias in two languages

"Encyclopedia," despite its prestigious sound, is a relatively modern hodgepodge of Greek words meaning "the circle of learning (in arts and science)." The 17-volume French Encyclopédie of 1772 took 26 years to complete, with the goal to "assemble the knowledge scattered over the face of the earth; to explain its general plan to the men with whom we live ... so that we may not die without having deserved well of the human race."

Our four online encyclopedias "deserve well" of our many kinds of library customers. DISCUS provides three products from Encyclopaedia Britannica, which first appeared in 1768. How astounded its first editors would be to see that the online version permits not only topical articles but also selected websites and multimedia through the advanced search feature. The Britannica products are: 

  • Britannica Online Reference Center (Public Library Edition), for general audiences 
  • Britannica Online School Edition (PreK-12), a three-in-one package on separate elementary, middle school and high school levels; each age level has an age-appropriate interface in "look" and function, and the teacher resources are an added classroom value
  • Enciclopedia Juvenil is Britannica's Spanish-language product for children -- but don't stop there. Just click on the link to "Spanish Resource Center" at the top right of the menu bar and you will discover a link to a "hidden" resource, the Enciclopedia Universal en Español for more advanced information.

BCL subscribes to an additional general encyclopedia in Spanish, Grolier's Enciclopedia Cumbre, linked outside of the DISCUS collection.

ROLE PLAY: You are the Children's Librarian: A new family has arrived from Argentina. Although they all are learning English and can speak it with some proficiency, the parents want to back up their 9-year-old son's English homework materials with Spanish in order to ease his transition into local schools. The boy needs to do an assignment on "alemania," for which no one in the family can remember the English word. It sounds like a mental disorder to you. Demo our four online encyclopedias on the basis of what you know.