Connecticut opens virtual library

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Using a high-speed digital network shared among schools, universities and libraries, Connecticut has opened a virtual library to the public.

Full-text information and databases in the Connecticut Digital Library (www.iconn.org), which officially opened April 9, are available to remote users at home and to on-site users in all state public libraries; libraries in museums, historical societies and hospitals; public and private schools; colleges and universities; and government agencies.

"If accessing from home, we have to authenticate that you are actually a Connecticut resident as opposed to anyone else from the world," said Sharon Brettschneider, development division director with the Connecticut State Library, which oversees the digital library along with the state Department of Higher Education.

She said anyone with a valid state library card, which has a unique bar code number, can access information and be automatically authenticated from anywhere in the world.

The site contains several full-text periodical databases and thousands of indexed journals and magazines, including some sophisticated business and health and wellness resources, she said. The site also has a reader advisory database where users can ask for recommendations on books.

More databases will be added over time. Audio and video streaming are also planned.

Michigan-based Gale Group Inc., which provides electronic reference databases, is the content provider.

Brettschneider said libraries and communities with less funding and resources benefit from the site because they have more access to databases that were too costly for them to obtain. "This really kind of equalizes the playing field," she said. "This is new to them."

She said it's also cheaper to provide electronic information statewide than if each library tried to purchase and provide the databases. The state General Assembly provided $2 million for the project last summer.

The digital library is one component of the Connecticut Education Network (www.ctstateu.edu/infosys/ctednet), a state initiative to link 1,100 schools, the state's 350 libraries and more than 100 college campuses within two years.

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