If I had a choice of what I'd like in my research library, it would start with the Greater Oxford Dictionary (13 huge volumes) and two or three different encyclopaedias, include texts on every subject I was writing about (which would require an ongoing outlay of many dollars), and probably the entire set of Norton's anthologies. Just for starters.
But as a backup, the internet is a pretty good alternative these days, as long as you triple-check your information and learn which sites are likely to have errors. I've done a huge amount of research on pirates over the years, and there are lots of websites created by pirate fans, but quite a few of them are wrong. They repeat common assumptions rather than accurate facts. That's OK, I've learned to research widely enough to find out where the errors lie. Books can be wrong too. It depends who wrote them, and what their agenda was. There are different versions of Australian history, depending on whether the author believed that white settlers and soldiers massacred Aboriginal tribes or not.
What I love about the internet is that I can rustle up some needed information in a flash, and the kind of thing I often need is short and simple. This week it has included how the 'jaws of life' work, how the board game Cluedo is played and what the cards and playing pieces look like, at what age a child can be toilet-trained, and what are the stages and ages of little kids learning to understand and to talk.
So along the way I discovered that people are selling sets of the 'jaws of life' on Ebay, that Cluedo has been around since the 1940s and is still being made (I think it's even in a computer game version!) and that even in an article on toilet training, the Americans still talk about teaching a child to 'go to the bathroom'.
Just finished reading the fourth and last 'Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants' book. I think I'm glad it's the last one. I'm waiting for the pants to turn up in my mailbox. It would be lovely to have a pair of jeans that actually fitted me comfortably.