Tagged: reading

Library use in the digital age? Google It.

Sometimes I wonder: what did we do before Google?


Obviously, we read (more hardcover) books. Visited libraries (more often). Speaking of which, how are libraries doing these (digital) days? I haven’t visited my local in ages, and I think I only visited my uni one once, and it was to meet someone – not even for research! I love hardback books (am I actually having to specify the type now – that’s I mean ‘traditional’ and not electronic?!) and have always considered myself an avid reader.


But in the past few years, my hardcover book consumption has decreased, and my online book and information use has vastly increased. The last book I read was (I can’t believe I actually have to cast my mind back and think about this) A Six-Letter Word For Death, by Patricia Moyes (left).

I love murder-mysteries and whodunits, and Mum picked that one up at a secondhand bookshop (published in 1983, likely out of print), read it, enjoyed it, passed it on to me (for the record, it’s fantastic). Until my recent move back to my home state a few months ago, I always had a stack of books – either To Read or Reading – next to my bed. When I first moved back, I was reading a recent John Grisham, but for the life of me I can’t remember where I’ve put it – and why I haven’t realised that sooner.

I regularly buy books for my Mum, the original Bookworm . I will be eternally grateful to her for introducing me to the magic of reading and books; she’s responsible for the mini-libraries in our house…when I visited friends’ houses as a kid, I always thought their family was a bit weird if they didn’t have big overflowing bookcases. But lately, even she’s been buying up on Kindle (though sometimes, this is for the massive price reduction). And when I do buy hardcovers for her, they’re usually from op-shops, eBay or Etsy (out-of-print copies).

Kathryn ZickuhrLee Rainie and Kristen Purcell did some research on US library use and released their report, Library Services in the Digital Age in January of this year.

Among their findings:

  • Fully 91% of Americans ages 16 and older say public libraries are important to their communities; and 76% say libraries are important to them and their families.
  • In the past 12 months, 53% of Americans ages 16 and older visited a library or bookmobile
  • 52% of recent library users say their use of the library in the past five years has not changed to any great extent, and 22% say their use has decreased.
  • The main reason patrons say their library use decreased? ‘Can get books, do research online, and the Internet is more convenient.’ (40%)

As a journalist, I’m always impressed by those who’ve gone before me to report the news sans Google. William Prochnau, a former national reporter for the Washington Post, now a contributing editor of Vanity Fair, wrote this fascinating related piece for the American Journalism Review. For insight into the press biz 25 years ago, Prochnau spoke to Tom Fiedler, the editor of the Miami Herald. Fiedler remember when “We still had linoleum on the floors so we could stub out our cigarette butts.”

“You do pay a price for this…the ability to wander off, to think, to talk to people, may be getting squeezed out by all the technology. You find an extra hour when you used to talk to people and you go to your laptop and look for e-mails and surf the Web. Sometimes we lose ourselves in that stuff, and we never have that conversation where the thread of an idea just emerges, something that you would have never thought of.” – Tom Fiedler

The article also quotes Geneva Overholser (as Prochnau describes, “Overholser is one of those former everythings–editor of the Des Moines Register, Nieman fellow, editorial writer at the New York Times, ombudsman at the Washington Post. Now a faculty member for the Washington bureau of the University of Missouri School of Journalism”)…

She thinks we have created a modern journalistic world so driven by demographics and cost–target the readers, then give them what they think they want at the least possible expense–that it threatens our reason for being. “Newspapers are failing to give reporters time or even encouragement to do the things that we used to say made us ‘great’ or ‘good,’ ” Overholser says. “We almost have a different definition of good now. It’s not surprising that a handful of papers win all the Pulitzers. They are the only ones that are investing in journalism.”

That’s pretty damn melancholy.

Apparently, ‘B.C’ – Before Google – is a thing. Here’s a tribute website to it. One guy wrote about Searching the Internet B.G. (lengthy, but worth a skim to see how far technology has come). He explains how you couldn’t even search the Net until the 1980s. The mind boggles!

The whole point of this post, originally, was to share this recent discovery via StumbleUpon: The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci. Then I got all distracted by how amazing the Internet is. BUT the page has a ton of da Vinci’s portrait studies, anatomy sketches, and drawings of inventions. Prepare to be inspired.

Happy reading?