Wondering How to Access Information for Research on Your Presentation?

Imagine you’re doing research online for a seminar presentation, say, for example, on business in colonial America , and you Google the phrase “entrepreneurship colonial New England.” Among your first three results is a winner: an article in the Journal of Economic History entitled “The Business Entrepreneur in a Changing Colonial Economy, 1763-1795.” You click on it, only to be rejected: turns out it’s an item in JSTOR, and you have no access to the contents because you don’t have student or faculty privileges as an LIR library cardholder.

Currently, only those LIR members who are retired from one of the schools in the Five Colleges system have JSTOR access. You sigh, take down the citation information, and go to one of the Five Colleges libraries that lists this journal in its catalog. If you’re lucky, the journal’s still on the shelves, and you can photocopy the article. But what if it’s no longer on the shelves because it’s been digitized and stored in JSTOR? You still can’t access the article unless a librarian relents and pulls it up on a library computer and then emails it to you at home. Most cumbersome for you. And hard on library staff!

Okay, so what’s JSTOR? Here’s its own explanation: “It includes archives of over one thousand leading academic journals across the humanities, social sciences, and sciences, as well as select monographs and other materials valuable for academic work.The entire corpus is full-text searchable, offers search term highlighting, includes high-quality images, and is interlinked by millions of citations and references.” Obviously, a terrific resource that is potentially very useful to all LIR members.

Happily, there is a solution that will provide access to JSTOR (and, indeed, much more online) to all LIR members, regardless of their standing with the local colleges. I have learned that anyone who is a resident of Massachusetts can gain JSTOR access by obtaining an ‘ecard’ from the Boston Public Library. Easy as pie! To get an ecard, go to www.bpl.org and on the left-hand panel select General & Contact Info, then Borrowing and Circulation Information, where you will find the information and instructions for enrolling for your ecard. Registration is instantaneous, and within a minute or two you have access to everything the BPL offers to its cardholders from home, and not just JSTOR. It’s a marvelous resource, and free to all Massachusetts residents.

It gets better. Go back to our Google search above. If you have a BPL ecard and you click on the search result for the enticing article in the Journal of Economic History, you will be confronted with a BPL screen that asks you to type in your access number, and once you do that, you’re popped
instantly to the first page of the article, and you’re on your way. You can read the entire thing, download it to your own computer as a PDF, and print it out, if you like. Not only that, but when you go back to your search results and you encounter another JSTOR listing, clicking on it will take you
instantly to it with no need to key in your access number a second time.

Even if you’re not likely to use JSTOR that much, the BPL ecard is well worth it. The library has posted a massive amount of resource material for cardholders online. You’re bound to find something to please and even excite you. And it sure beats driving to Boston! —Bobbie Reitt

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