The most obvious resource for supplying the information needs of Penn students and faculty is the University's library system. The physical forms of that collection are well-known to us all, and most faculty are skilled users and guides.
FRANKLIN: the main library catalogue on-line. If you have not used it from office or home, you should try that (WARNING: this won't work on all WWW browsers -- if not, then you get there with the command "telnet library.upenn.edu" from the main prompt on your e-mail computer). WHEN DO YOU STILL NEED THE CARD CATALOGUE? In particular note:
1. keyword searching -- far easier and more powerful than traditional subject searching, esp. if you search for "x and y" -- try "k=roman and army" for example. Not only can you tailor your own search, but note that the results come in reverse chronological order, newest first: this becomes a handy way to check quickly for the newest work in subjects that are of the most importance to you. (Type "exp=k" for help while using the service.)
2. call-number searching -- you can browse a virtual shelf by typing "c=qa 76.9.C66.L363.1993" and see that item and all those that succeed it whatever Penn collection they happen to be in and whether they are actually in the building or not.
3. print out the results -- tastes vary. I prefer to mark the information I want for copying (under Windows or on a Macintosh), then "paste" that into a word processing file, saving it to print later; but you can usually just type "print" on a Franklin screen, and just that screen will be printed and ejectjed from the printer hooked to your machine. This is somewhat wasteful of paper (one page for one book), but it's the quickest and easiest way to get a copy of information to carry away with you. There is also a Mark/Send feature in the catalogue that can help you download information directly to your computer; this takes a little experimentation and doesn't work on all connections but is very powerful.
4. use for bibliographies -- though the character formatting on Franklin leaves something to be desired, you will do a more accurate job of building bibliographical entries if you snatch the information direct from the screen rather than retyping laboriously. Again, practice will give you the habit you want here.
5. use to give your students advice -- one of my favorite reactions now to a student's question, in person or by e-mail, is "Go to the library, do the keyword search 'k=roman and army' and rummage the results." I know what I'm sending the student to, but I'm not just handing out a title or two -- the student has to look around and do some thinking and sorting. It's also immensely convenient to be able to give more specific advice over your office desktop -- reduces the times you say, "Oh, yes, let me make a note, I'll bring you that reference Thursday" and the like.
Bundled with Franklin (on the front screen) are several other resources that bear looking at: MEDLINE gives you detailed abstracts of virtually every article published in medical journals around the world (a hypochondriac's delight, on one view, but an enlightened medical consumer's powerful tool for self-information as well), while the Wilson databases index scholarly journals in the humanities and is set up to link directly to call numbers in the Penn library catalogue. The MLA database is also powerful in this regard, but does not have the link to Penn collections.
c. The new "gateway" to the library adds several resources from computer systems not consistent with the on-line catalogue. Look at this menu and see what appeals to you. Three are important to most humanists. (Why do you have to give a social security number for some of them?) All these resources take a little practice to get used to the individual software, but all are quite powerful and useful.
1. The full text of the Oxford English Dictionary with powerful searching software is available wherever you may be. This is worth experimenting with, for you can do searches you could never do with the paper dictionary. Experiment with "Search field" a bit -- a search can take a little longer, but it's possible to ask it, for example, to look for two words appearing together, or for the plain entry (definition only) without all the quotations and supporting material, or even for how often Matthew Arnold was quoted (1206 times in all volumes!) and to look at the quotations taken from his works; or searches can be limited by dates.
2. RLIN is the union catalogue of institutions belonging to the Research Libraries Group. If the Penn library system does not have what you want, this is a good first place to look. You may simply print out the results and take that sheet to Interlibrary Loan, but the Eureka search software in RLIN now allows you to snatch the information directly and send it to Penn's Interlibrary Loan e-mail box to request that the material be obtained for you. In either case, getting good information can sharply increase the accuracy of the information they use to find the book you want. Try "help" on the main library screen before clicking on RLIN to get some useful guidance. (It is also possible to inspect catalogues of other universities, in the USA and abroad. Catalogues of collections that have all or nearly all their collection in the computer catalogue are particularly useful; experiment will lead you to some of those. Finding material that way won't tell you if Penn has the item, obviously, but it can often be useful to verify a reference, and even to print out the reference to carry with you into the paper catalogue area.) --NOTE: OCLC is another service of this kind, widely used around the country. My focus here on RLIN reflects Penn's choices and my own habits.
3. Lexis/Nexis is the on-line service providing full texts of newspaper, legal, and business sources. The sign-on screen for this service has an important warning all users should read. This software in particular takes some getting used to (the "help" function on the main library screen has some useful clues), but there are many practical applications in the classroom for current texts, both for their content of them and for what we might call the Safire mode, using them as databases of current English usage; but they are also potentially much more sophisticated resources for cultural studies, depending on your and your students' creativity in using them.