Monday, February 13, 2006

I was organizing some stuff on the shelves at home the other day and moving a whole rather large section of reference books--stuff like mythology books, Benet's Readers Encyclopdia, A Writers Thesaurus,and the Encyclopdia of Word an Phrase Origins, etc--
when I came to the stunning realization that I haven't actually cracked any of them open in at least a year--not since I got my laptop. I mean, I work in a library for god's sake, so it's not like I don't have a whole 5 floors at my fingers, but before, my only access to a computer was at work. So if I suddenly needed to know the name of some Greek goddess, or the origin of the word "odd," I had to truck on over to my nifty reference shelf and look it up.

In the library, the bibliographic librarians/instructors are very quick to warn students about the dangers of relying solely on google. Which they're right, partially, in that it's difficult to find schlarly information, and other research archival stuff via that channel, but hell, you certainly can find just about anything else. And basically most of our databases are available with a password to folks from home--full text sometimes. We always joke about librarians being obsolete and replaced by computers one day...but there may be a little truth least when it come to how the role is defined traditionally.

Now I'm old enough to remember the pre-windows world, when computers for your average user could be used for word processing and spreadsheets and not much else. Maybe some games. I don't remember how anyone knew anything at all.

On a given day, I consult google (or yahoo) a million times a day for things as basic as directions to where I'm going, take-out/delivery menus, random factoids. Not to mention blogs and e-mail. Plus my writerly self is always looking up the work of poets I've heard of, submission guidelines, and other poetry stuff. I needed info on ballads last week, and where did I go, not the books on form, but the web. Movie times. Apartment hunting. Hell, I buy my groceries online. What did we do before-hand for all those little things we look up? Call the local librarian every five minutes at two a.m. for the scientific name for bluestem? Just give up if we didn't know the answer? Without the google maps and I'd never go anywhere in the city that wasn't in the direct path between work and home.

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