Friday, June 09, 2006

True story

I went to the library at my university yesterday. I walked in the door and looked for articles written on paper. I read them and took notes, also on paper. I left hefty volumes in the "Return journals here" section of the stacks.

If you've been out of school for a while (or if you're much younger than me, in which case, pffft!) you may not immediately understand the significance of that action. When I was in grad school previously (over ten years ago), I spent hours each semester retrieving bound journals, photocopying articles and looking for spare change to add to my copy card. The bound journals were often in such demand that I had to scour the return shelves to get the issues I needed. I had stacks of articles on the shelves in my lab with notes in the margins and staples on the verge of falling out from excessive page-flipping.

When I returned to school a few years ago, the thing that surprised and delighted me most about doing literature searches was the ubiquity of online journals. Now, I enter my university's electronic journal webpage and have access to almost every journal imaginable. I do my searches electronically, then download pdfs of the relevant articles and print them on the department printer. I don't even know if copy cards still exist.

This week, though, I needed to find some articles that were published way back in... wait for it... the 80's. It's not worth the time and effort for journals to scan in old issues, so they weren't available electronically. I put off the library trip for a few days because I was in denial about its necessity, but yesterday I finally gave in. Truth be told, it was enjoyable to be back in the stacks, and I even browsed a bit instead of doing a commando-style library raid. It was nice to turn pages instead of scrolling. I did have a librarian ask me if I was looking for the books at one point (and I had to admit that I was) when I was apparently wandering in the nursing history section of the building.

When I finished and returned my journals to the reshelve stacks, they were all alone. I don't think I'll be back to visit them soon.

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