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Print v Online: The Home Knockdown Edition

Yes, the great debate. Fred Shapiro in NYTimes Freakonomics blog has an interesting post from last Thursday (sorry so late - I'm still on partial leave) about print v online reference sources for the library - the home library. Three of the five on his list I have at home: 1. World Almanac; 4. Merck Manual of Medical Information; 5. American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

The first, I received as a "gift" for attending a workshop on interactive tools for instruction (with a concentration on reference). The second I bought about ten years ago because I felt guilty for not having it in the house. The third was my going away gift to college (twenty years ago) coupled with the American Heritage Thesaurus. I keep it because it has all my markings and notations from those great years of intellectual expansion. The last time I looked in my print dictionary was when I was searching for a 10+ word that started with 'E' in my daily cryptogram puzzle about three years ago. I can't remember the word right now but it's marked on the page I where I found it!

Even though the medical reference book is about 10 years old, I use it quite regularly, meaning about once a quarter. Every time I look something up in that book I thank myself for subsiding to my guilt on that purchase. I have no plans to replace it with a newer version at the moment.

The World Almanac - I think my husband looked in it once since we've had it to look up a bit of fleeting trivia.

I should also mention that while I don't have # 3. Oxford Atlas of the World specifically, I do keep a "Map Drawer" in my built-in buffet of all maps and various atlases I have picked up through the years. I love maps. I'm fascinated with them. I could go on, but that's about all you need to know in this posting.

So, reading through the comments section of Shapiro's post (92 at the time of this post). I found it interesting the range of resources listed, but more interestingly by the librarians promoting reference sources (yea "New York Public Library Desk Reference", fun read and a good research project for those that want to see what types of questions are being asked in a library, but it's not part of my personal financial budget).

Most interestly, are the posts of the lovers and haters of print and online reading. I liked the one comment saying "Does a desktop with an internet connection count?" as a reference source. I think that's how most people view their computers these days. Then there are the ones that are adamant that online never ever replace print sources because reading online text for any length of time gives them headaches. But the lovers and the haters never really answered the question of if they even have any reference books in their home library. And here are the haters reading the blog and posting about how they can't stand the small font. It makes me wonder if they actually have any reference books in their home library at all or where they actually go to find resources/sources of information. It's a tangent off the initial argument but that's where the comments were taking my thoughts.

So regarding my own home library reference collection - I don't have any plans for purchasing or replacing the ones I currently have. I will, and have been for a while now, default to online sources - especially those accessible via my online public/academic library. Sorry publishers.

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