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).