---------------How to Access Electronic Information---------------
Online refers to being connected by modem to your local freenet, or to an information provider such as a commercial service or university.
Online database searching is a skill requiring training and experience. Otherwise, it can be a waste of money with questionable results. For this reason, libraries that offer online searching have library staff perform the actual search. However, you can access online information from home: all you need is a personal computer, a modem, and an account with a supplier of a gateway to the online databases. The supplier may search for you or provide training. For more information ask your library for names and addresses of service providers. Some of these are: InfoGlobe, Compuserv, Dialog, and Infomart.
Government information, such as that from Statistics Canada, can be searched online. You may want to locate product descriptions, or demographic information for market research. This type of information can especially benefit the person either starting or expanding a small business.
Online database vendors charge by connect time, usually by the minute. It can be expensive. Some charge as much as $300.00 per hour to connect to the database, plus telecommunication charges. The database you are searching may be located in California or Australia. You also may be charged for the number of records you download on disc or print out. Some databases supply only summary information whereas others supply full text.
Check with your local library for availability of online searching and its cost. Usually libraries will charge you the connect time cost; some also charge for staff time. Many libraries absorb costs for the first few minutes of a search; short searches will often be free to the user. If your local public library doesn't offer online searching, ask the staff to direct you to other agencies.
A major difference between CD-Rom and online information is that the first is usually free to the library patron, and the second is not.
Online systems are updated in real time (like wire services), or twice-daily, daily, weekly or even monthly in some instances, depending on the database.
Usually online versions of databases cover a longer time period than the same database on CD-ROM. For example, the online version Of CBCA (Canadian Business and Current Affairs) includes information as far back as 1967, whereas the CD-ROM version Of CBCA provides coverage only from 1974. Both these versions offer more information than the printed Canadian Index.
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