Sometimes I marvel at how much technological progress I've experienced during my lifetime. Internet use was limited when I was in college. I still remember the first television commercial to include a website--what the product was, I don't know, but I remember thinking "What the hell is 'http://www'?" The first computer I ever owned was an IBM desktop which had no internal hard drive but booted from a floppy disk (remember those?) inserted into a B drive. I printed to a dot-matrix printer which sounded like a combination between a jackhammer and a chainsaw when the print head was in motion. I couldn't print anything at night for fear I'd wake my college roommate up. Now I compute on a nifty MacBook and print to a Bluetooth printer which is so quiet I often forget I've printed anything until I discover documents in the out tray.
Last week I discovered the technological changes in library research. I thought I knew a lot about library research from having been an academic research assistant from 1991-1996. Among the million job responsibilities was combing through the UCSF Library for journal articles the principal investigators needed. By the time I left the job and entered medical school, I was the equivalent of a Jedi Master at finding primary sources in the library. When I was planning my San Francisco trip last week, I knew things had changed and I did some Web research on how to get what I needed efficiently. I believed, in this era of high-speed Everything and virtual Doohickies, I'd be able to get almost all the papers I needed in PDF format, download them to a USB drive, then trudge downstairs to the stacks for the pre-2000 papers which, I assumed, would still be in print format only. Well, things went well but not quite as smoothly as I'd hoped. Here I'm presenting a rundown of library research then and now.