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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the October 9, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
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Janie Hermann knows databases. She even met her
husband through a database, albeit indirectly. Information services
librarian at the Princeton Public Library, Hermann spends a good deal
of her time thinking up, creating, and leading tech instruction
She is responsible for the library’s Tuesday Technology Talks, which
feature experts speaking on everything from how to get the most out
of a Palm Pilot to how to use PowerPoint.
A newer program is Data Bytes, a once-a-month, lunchtime, brown bag
series that aims to show attendees how to mine the library’s 50
For while the Internet is free to anyone with a place to connect to
it, "you have to pay for the good stuff, the premium stuff,"
says Hermann. It’s like television, she offers as an analogy. If you
have a set, you can get local stations, but the Weather Channel, the
Food Network, and Nickelodeon can only be accessed by those who pay
a cable fee. A ticket to catch the Sopranos on HBO or Chip and Dale
on the Disney Channel costs even more.
Subscription Internet databases are so pricey that few consumers or
small businesses sign up, but most of the best are available free
at the Princeton library, and at other area libraries too. In
library card holders can now access many of the databases from their
home or office computers.
On Thursday, October 10, at 1 p.m. Data Bytes addresses "Facts
on File and Facts.com" at the library’s temporary home in the
Princeton Shopping Center. No charge. Call 609-924-9529.
one of Hermann’s colleagues, leads this session.
Hermann is from Canada; her accent is a dead giveaway. A graduate
of Queens’ College, where she earned degrees in geography and
she earned her master’s of library and information science at the
University of West Ontario. She was recruited for her job at an
Library Conference and "came to Princeton four years ago
she says in a conversation on October 2.
She got her first computer in 1987, first logged onto the Internet
in 1994, and says Netscape is her browser of choice. As far as search
engines go, she relies on Google for most of her searches, but turns
to the Librarian’s Index to the Internet when she wants greater
A website only gets on that search engine, she says, if it has passed
inspection by a librarian who holds a master’s degree. Each site comes
with a review, also written by a professional librarian.
Another alternative search engine on which Hermann relies is the
Web Directory. "It leads to search engines that uncover the hidden
Internet," she says, explaining that the Googles of the Internet
do not index PDF files or pages within databases. This information
remains beyond their reach — at least for now.
Hermann used to do a lot of recreational surfing, but now rarely uses
the Internet at home, except, she says, "for E-mail, shopping,
and information." She sees a similar trend at the library. "We
used to have people come in to do chatting," she says. There has
been a "marked decrease" in this activity, and also in the
amount of time people spend on the library’s Internet terminals.
When the Internet was a newer phenomenon, it was not uncommon, she
says, to see library patrons sit in front of a screen for two or three
hours. Now it’s more like 15 minutes. "More people are very
she observes. "They check out a fact, and get out."
All 50 of the library’s databases can be accessed from any of its
24 computer terminals, a number that will quadruple when the library
moves into its new home back on Witherspoon Street. Hermann’s Data
Bytes series not only highlights features of these databases, but
also gives tips on finding categories of information on them. For
example, she says, one of the sessions was on how to find book
an especially helpful tool for book clubs deciding what to read next.
Facts.com, the database highlighted in the upcoming Data Bytes
has appeal for just about anyone. It offers digests of news events
reaching back to 1940. Among its nifty features is an "issues
and controversies" section, which presents pros and cons on hot,
current debates, including gene therapy research, human cloning,
warnings, and the death penalty. For each topic there is an overview,
a history, key words, and points to make in a debate — pro and
con. The points on each side are backed up by news clippings from
Facts.com also has extensive lesson plans for teachers and science
experiments for students. For everyone, it has a world news digest.
Type in a date, and it gives the headlines and main stories from that
day. It also has an almanac, complete with up-to-date country reports.
A draw-back to the Facts.com database is that it does not offer
articles. But the library has a number of databases, including Dow
Jones, that do.
There are few things a search on the library’s databases won’t
The Community Resource File, for instance, lists area clubs. It was
there that Hermann found the Outer Circle Ski Club. And it was at
the ski club that she met Edward Hermann, an ETS configuration
specialist, whom she married 18 months ago.
Leslie Burger, the library’s director, urged the couple to wed in
the library. The building was about to be torn down, and she had
wanted to see a bride descend its dramatic, curved staircase. Hermann
and her groom decided to say their vows at Trinity Church, but did
agree to stop by the library for a grand walk down the doomed
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