Monday, October 17, 2005

Historical Methods and Interpretations

My mother worked for the college library at Georgia Southern College for twenty-something years. On the nights she worked late, when I was in the 8th Grade and for three years in high school; I would ride the school bus to the college campus and then spend the next five or six hours in the library waiting for her to get off work. I like to say, I literally "grew up" in a college library. I initially spent my time in the library reading and sometimes later "researching" subjects that were of interest to me. I also ended up be assigned simple tasks like re-shelving books, dusting, etc.

One of the reasons I enjoyed the time we spent in the GC&SU library last Tuesday night was to see how much computers and the "Information Age" has changed library research. In the old days, when researching a topic you went to the card catalog and looked for books delving with your particular subject. There was always the readers guide to look up articles in the bound perioditicals or newspapers the library had on microfilm.
Even back then there was "Interlibrary Loan," but the wait to get a book in from another library could be as long as two or three weeks. That was about it, research sources were rather scant in many ways in the old Georgia Southern's library. Today, thanks to modern computers, we literally have an "explosion" of historical tomes,papers and information available for researching almost any historical subject. My, how times have changed, and for the better! Thank You for the library trip Dr.Vess!


At 12:56 AM, Blogger Ansley said...

Brannen, I remember looking through the card catalog too. It's incredible to me how FAST the Internet took the place of older research methods. It has happened almost too fast to consider the actual difference in before vs. after Internet possibilities. I remember the first time I used a computer to look up a book in the library--PINES. I'm sure most Georgians are familiar with that. Anyway, I thought that was incredible and then all of a sudden computers actually had electronic sources in them--no need to search for the actual document. Use your scrollbar to view it on the monitor. WHAT a sudden change it is. Maybe I'm only discovering it late but it truly seems unfathomable sometimes. When I first used microfilm, I thought it was so handy and impressive that so many records are preserved in such a way. I think it's safe to guess that it won't be any time before microfilm resources are available on the computers rather than having to use the actual microfilm. I think the advances are a change for the better too, Brannen; however, there are some computer-related qualms that I would mention, but that would be complaining about something that has changed the world. I know things won't go back to how they were, but I will say that people should not take for granted or rely too much on the ease of a computer. How do y'all feel about the extensive use of computers that our generation is such a part of?

At 11:18 PM, Blogger colin said...

I feel that there is something to be said for the old way of research. However, it would be absurd to deny the obvious advantages of our ever changing technological advances. We have resources and information at our fingertips. As we critque past historians for their seemingly limited perspectives, it has made me think. The ease with which we can ascertain information is astounding, but with this luxury comes responsibility. There is no longer an excuse to do single-minded history. Now more than ever, we have the ability to engage in an effort to achieve "total history" "critical realism" or whatever you want to call it. After all, I don't want to become the next Suetonius. Do you?

At 8:00 AM, Blogger Dr. Deborah Vess said...

True, the Internet has revolutionized research. Personally I love having access to materials right on my desktop. However, the card catalogue, readers' guide and other resources are still necessitities, as many resources are still not in digital form.


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