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These are usually kept in a separate room (in the basement, to my experience! Usually, the location is a place called "the stacks," which is where you go to look for periodicals that are older than the current issue.
Once you insert these into the microfiche or microfilm machine (and there are separate machines for each), you will be able to see the text of the article that you are looking for.
Often, you will have to scan through quite a bit of film to find what you are looking for.
However, not all libraries have their entire collection on line.
So, if you are looking for information on say, the Civil War, and think that some older sources might be useful to you, be sure to ask the librarian if the library still maintains their card catalog.
If they do, you should check there as well as checking the computer.
The computer in the library usually will have instructions attached to it.
Don't limit yourself, though, by putting in words that are too narrow or too broad.
If your search words are too narrow, you will not find many sources; on the other hand if they are too broad, you will not find the search useful either.
Make sure to distinguish between general interest magazines and professional journals; this is an important distinction in college-level research.
Microfiche or microfilm is a device which can be extremely frustrating.