Due to your status as a UC Merced student, your access to information has just increased! You can now access e-books, articles, and databases that the UC Merced Library subscribes to and has purchased. In short, you have information privilege.
For most individuals searching the web, resources like databases and scholarly journals are behind a paywall and are therefore unavailable with payment. If you have ever been asked to pay for an information source on the web, you have experienced a paywall.
While academic libraries, like the University of California Libraries, are actively working to make research open and freely available to anyone, we still purchase many information resources needed by our students and faculty. Our current information environment is one where many resources are costly and limited to those who pay for them.
Image from Wikimedia. Movie poster for Paywall: The Business of Scholarship, directed by Jason Schmitt