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Internet provides forum for shopping, job searches, etc.

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by Ann Bucy

SBJ Contributing Writer

While some Web surfers may be getting their first taste of shopping online for the holidays this year, gift items are only a fraction of the online shopping experience. It is now possible to look for a home, a car, a job and just about anything else via the Internet.

At the Springfield-Greene County Public Library, computers are connected to a system called Info Link, which provides users with access to Yahoo!, Lycos, Web Crawler and several other search engines, including Metacrawler, a search engine that searches the results of six other search engines.

The Web surfer can find full-text articles from newspapers and news services worldwide; look up phone numbers from all over the globe; research signs and symptoms of health problems or diseases; find out if another library has the book the user is looking for and more.

And while all this information is at the computer user's fingertips, there is a catch. "One main problem with the Internet is the fact that (the site) may have changed their address or their information has changed," said Dorothy Davidson, the reference department manager at the Springfield-Greene County Main Library.

You may have to wade through outdated information and incorrect sites to get where you want to go.

"It takes patience to use the Internet," Davidson added. "You might get a thousand hits on one subject or one word. The information is updated depending on the site. Some of them are changed hourly and some not nearly as often."

Davidson said it's important to be careful about what sites and information you use. "Anyone can put information on the 'Net. There's some good information on it, some bad and the whole range in between."

She added that sites sponsored by recognized associations, research facilities and university hospitals are usually OK but it is always a good idea to verify information obtained on the Internet.

While many businesses offer their own individual Web sites, the Springfield News-Leader offers something a little different via its gateway site a site whose content is devoted exclusively to links to other sites, said Ben Lawson, production coordinator at the News-Leader.

Among the sites offered through the gateway is Ozarks Home Search, where five local Realtors have listings of more than a thousand homes in the area.

"What's neat about this site is the fact that you can select your specifications," Lawson said of the home search. "You can put in a price range, the region you're looking at, how many bedrooms you need and a lot of other information."

Via the gateway's Ozarks Marketplace page, the viewer can look at the newspaper's classified ads, shop for cars, look for a job and get employer profiles from a number of companies.

"There's also a section called Career Path where you can upload your resume, which goes into a national job-search database," Lawson said.

The News-Leader's site has been up since June of this year. "A lot of the Gannett chain newspapers are creating their own sites," Lawson said, adding that the News-Leader site receives approximately 50,000 hits a week.

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