William Hicks of “Digital Web” magazine has an interesting post on “Getting the Most Out of Your Library” http://www.digital-web.com/articles/getting_the_most_out_of_your_library/ from a techie point of view. I would recommend reading the whole post but here is an excerpt:
“…Think of the library system as something akin to the open-source movement before software. Subsidized institutions buy books, subscribe to journals and proprietary databases, and pay people to help you find “stuff”, all essentially at no cost to you.
Most libraries fall into one of three categories: public, academic, or specialized. You probably checked out all your early readers from the first when you were a kid, may never have set foot in the second (even if you went to college), and—unless you are dealing with the law or medicine—you don’t need to know much about the third.
Many libraries communicate and share amongst themselves, and are supported by tax dollars, student-use fees, or the endowments or profits of their host institution. And, even though you may not attend, the goldmine is usually at the academic institutions so I’ll spend a lot of time talking about how you can harvest things from those…”
“I hope I have demonstrated that libraries may be worth returning to if they don’t currently receive any of your attention. Many large institutions have nothing but their patron’s, and often society’s, best interests at heart. While you may not get instant gratification from a library, and few if any are really cutting-edge when it comes to their use of web technologies, there is something to be said for the diversity and quality of information they provide you in your daily development tasks.”