June 4, 2003

A thoughful piece by noted science fiction author Robert Silverberg in the latest Asimov's: "Reflections: When There Was No Internet." It's an interesting meditation on life before and after the Internet, something we should all keep in mind as we deal with hordes of undergrad students stampeding our reference desks: they really don't remember life before the web very well, it's always seemed ubiquitous to them. We who are a bit older can compare how immeasurably easier it is to do research online compared to the old paper-based methods, we can appreciate that if something isn't online, hey, no big deal, the print version is just down the hall. At least it was easy to identify that the article existed. But, the new researcher doesn't make that comparison: her expectation is that the needed information will exist online, that it isn't worth the trouble to get if it isn't. I, to tell the truth, I can't blame them because I've become much the same. They imagine the pre-web days like I imagine the pre-TV days. From Locusmag.

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