Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Then there are those of us who were on the cusp

WILL UNWOUND #681: “Stone Age Reference”

Will Manley, who sometimes gets librarians up in arms over various topics, but whom I've always enjoyed reading, wonders if those who learned their reference skills pre-Internet had to be essentially more creative than those who came after.

I was in the process. I graduated in 1993, and took a few classes afterwards. Until after graduation, I didn't have an Internet class. So my training involved, well, books mostly, plus proprietary databases that involved code-like search strategies, but on the other hand I was an early adopter of this whole World Wide Web thing (just like my first computer was a 1983 Atari 800XL, which I had part-way through graduate school. It was so primitive the word processor was on a ROM pack, but I loved that thing. Played a mean game of Joust, too.) I first saw the Web through the old Mozilla browser. It was pre-Google. My main search engine was Ask Jeeves back then, which was more fun than what's left of it now.

So anyway, maybe I got a little of the best of both worlds. When I started my job as a medical librarian fifteen years ago, we were still using Grateful Med, searching using that specialised language. Now there's PubMed, and you can still use subject headings and for the most part that specialised know-how to search the MEDLINE databases (there's a big thread on MEDLIB-L right now on trying to explain the difference between PubMed and MEDLINE, and I think those who did have to learn to do it the old-fashioned way grok that difference better, given their analogies).

I'm used to being on the cusp in a way. I'm an early Generation X-er (born 1967), that smaller generation between the Boomers and the Millennials, and I'm in a position now to be looking for a job as we (hopefully) start crawling out of the worst recession in my lifetime. I'm on a new cusp now, too, because much of the profession is nearing retirement age, and I'm discovering that I'm in a position to be, well, maybe one of the 'older' librarians soon, firmly in mid-career. It should be an interesting 20 years or so left, with the grace of the Gods, and I for one am looking at it in anticipation.

How does your generation and timing of how you learned about technology affect you? Are you readily able to accept technology? Can you do anything when the power goes out? :)

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