Leslie Campbell Rampey, Ph.D.
Assistant Librarian for Public Services
Roberts Memorial Library
Middle Georgia College
Cochran, GA 31014 USA
Library; Other (there is some possibility of categorizing as “research, government”, but there was no real research project directly affected)
Innovative or improved ways of doing things; Local commitment to network-based activities
Done in by a Squirrel!
When a squirrel recently bit our fiber optic network cable in two, the other members of our library staff threatened to send me to some sort of rehab place. It appeared to them that I had formed a strong addiction to the Internet and was exhibiting dangerous withdrawal symptoms. True, my first reaction was a barely muffled scream of dismay, and I was observed frequently pulling at my hair. Also true I finished neither my lunch or dinner that first day. (Can it be that frequent Internet access is what accounts for my far too hearty appetite?)
Upon realizing that it would take several days before the cable was restored, I did what any self-respecting “Internaut” would do- demanded a modem. Actually, I had to ask very nicely to borrow one from another campus office, and then sweet-talk my husband, who is employed at another college, to come over and help me with the communications software. Nevertheless, by Day 3 of the disaster I was again indulging my addiction, albeit on a somewhat limited basis. I mean, I couldn’t even FTP, for goodness sake!
I limped along on the modem for the next two days until the cable was re-laid– a little adventure that cost our college several thousands of dollars. But to me, and to the people who have to work and live with me, it was worth every penny. In fact, another couple of days and they would have volunteered to contribute.
Why did the loss of the Internet access create such a chaos in my life? I guess the addiction metaphor is valid. I had become so accustomed to conducting my professional information activities in an electronic mode that I quite literally no longer knew how to behave outside of that environment. I just couldn’t see myself, for example, pawing through those grubby little catalog cards again.
And, even if I wanted to do that, I still was at a loss to do my job effectively. During one of those terrible days, our director wanted to find a book on Georgia foundations that we all knew we had but couldn’t remember the title or location. The book didn’t appear under “foundations” in the card catalog, and no one wanted to tackle the “Georgia” subject cards. When I finally got back to our on-line catalog through the modem, I found the book in under thirty seconds by typing in the keywords “Georgia” and “foundations.” We couldn’t find it in the card catalog, of course, because it was under the subject heading of “charities,” a subject heading that simply would never have occurred to me. Now, one might say that I’m not a very good librarian because I couldn’t think of the subject heading “charities,” but think how much better a librarian I am with on-line access.
The on-line catalog, however, is far from the only resource that I access on-line. Loads of wonderful databases are out there. We have available to us a number of on-line periodicals indexes that allow the same ease, speed, and accuracy in identifying magazine and journal articles that the on-line catalog does in finding books. And other sources of in formation available on the Internet allow us to go far beyond offering the traditional books and articles to our users. For example, I have started a file of White House items– transcripts of Presidential speeches, press conferences, and town meetings- that I have downloaded from the Internet. Daily electronic newsletters in various areas of interest are another useful Internet feature. Song lyrics, hard-to-find folk and fairy tales, movie reviews, an electronic concordance to the Koran– you name it, it’s all there, or probably will be shortly.
My electronic mail, or “3-mail,” is another Internet activity that I was deprived of during those squirrel days. I engage in several discussion groups– of professional and other special interest. I find that these groups provide me with an immensely satisfying contact with the outside world and that they can be of far more immediately professional relevance than membership in a national organization. What do you get for that, after all, except the privilege of paying an obscene amount of money in annual dues and probably not being able to afford to go to the national convention? On “the lists,” however, one can discuss with real people real day-to-day issues as they occur. Time spent on the lists is far more than made up for in the increased productivity that professional contact makes possible.
Like those who live high in the Andes or Himalayas and can’t exist at lower altitudes, I’m now an information professional and used to living in cyberspace- and I don’t do well when I come out. Let’s hope I never have to, and that those of there will be joined by more and more folks in the very near future.