Do you remember what it was like doing research and writing papers in the Stone Age? When the most accessible fonts of knowledge we had occurred the forms of gigantic sets of encyclopedias, miles worth of microfilm, and card catalogs so large that they could easily fill up one of today’s server farms? If you don’t, then we might not be able to be friends.
Okay, I’m just joking there. (Or, am I?) But there is a strange yet noticeable divide growing between the traditional and the digital when it comes to accessing information. I see it all the time in my work. When people ask if we have a certain bit of historical data in our archives/library, the first question is not longer “is it available?” but “is it digitized?” (Or, likewise, “can I view it online?”) This question doesn’t just come from young students who grew up with iPads in hand, but seasoned scholars, those with well-preserved pasts in the information Stone Age and futures in the all-encompassing digital world. And it’s not something I’m immune to myself. I’ve done plenty of Internet searches for tidbits of information that I can’t see to find. There are still lots of (hidden) vital nodes of our culture that can’t be located online (yet).
When I was a little girl, my grandfather used to take care of my sister and I once a week during the summers. He was a college anatomy, biology and zoology professor, so his ideas of play dates involved trips to the Natural History Museum, the La Brea Tar Pits, the California Science Center or the Botanical Gardens. And I LOVED it. I was already a curious kid, but it was these trips and my family’s encouragement to learn and explore that solidified my path as a lifelong learner. My mom recently told me that she never scolded me about all the time I spent indoors on the computer or playing video games or reading because she knew that technology was the future, and could be a viable career choice for me. I grew up wanting to be an astronaut or a scientist—for the longest time I bounced between archaeologist and paleontologist. Of course, as I grew older, my path changed (I still consider being a writer as someone who wants to discover new things), but my love for science and technology has never faded.