I spent much of my childhood (and young adulthood) in libraries. Ticket in hand I marched through the swinging doors of the library in Templemore Avenue, Belfast (Northern Ireland) in search of the next series to devour. Enid Blyton’s Famous Five or Secret Seven, Frank Richards’ Greyfriars School, W. E. Johns’ Biggles and, of course, C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower. The scent of books, wood and wood polish will forever aid my recall of those days.
With age brought the need to research topics for school or university work. In my opinion, research was much more fun—and productive—when aided by a slightly intimidating, but very knowledgeable librarian and his/her backup database—hundreds of neatly typed cards filed in a wooden cabinet filled with long, narrow drawers. It seemed librarians were born with an innate talent for pointing to the precise reference I required.

Nowadays, I do as much research—probably more, but on the internet. Still, have we simply exchanged quality for volume? Most research, in many disciplines, comes down to a select list of key papers or publications. The rest is dross or chaff. Whereas a skillful librarian will signpost the core references, the internet fills our laptops and tablets with pages of useless links that do little more than waste time and increase frustration.

I have not crossed the threshold of a library in recent times. Perhaps a visit is long overdue?



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