How to get information from your library or computer

Most libraries now have a computerized database of all materials available in their various branches. Some libraries may still use a manual card catalog system. Ask a librarian if you need help learning to use these systems. A librarian can also tell you how to request a book from another branch and how to put a book on hold if it is currently checked out.

If a book is not in your librarys collection, ask the librarian if she can obtain it from another library by requesting an inter-library loan. This is a common practice, and you might be able to get medical texts from university or medical school libraries.

In addition to books, you can find relevant magazine and medical journal articles at the library. The librarian can show you how to use the database to search for articles and where to find the periodicals. Public libraries usually subscribe to only the most popular medical journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine and Journal of the American Medical Association. If you are able to visit a university or medical school library, you will find many more medical journals available. To find the nearest medical library open to the public, call the National Network of Libraries of Medicine at (800) 338-7657. If you do not live close to one of these libraries, ask your local librarian if he can help you obtain copies of the articles you want.

An astonishing amount of information is available through the Internet. Libraries from all over the world can be accessed, and you can download information in minutes from huge databases like MedLine or Cancerlit. Obtaining information from large medical databases, established journals, or large libraries is exceedingly helpful for parents at home with sick children. However, the huge numbers of people using the Internet has spawned chat rooms, bulletin boards, and thousands of FAQs (frequently asked questions) that may or may not contain accurate information. You may want to adopt the motto: "Let the buyer beware."

If you do not have a home computer, many libraries provide Internet access. Ask the librarian to help you connect to MedLine, Physicians Data Query (PDQ), or other databases you wish to search.

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