When dinosaurs roamed the Earth and I was in library school [well, it was before the turn of the century!] I took several classes concentrating on reference materials for specific subjects. This meant discovering the many books people wrote in order to help others find information. Now, of course, outside of school, our default is to “Google it” and many of the most trusted print resources have an online edition (i.e., The Handbook of Texas, Texas Almanac and Government publications). This begs the question, “Do we really need reference books?” I pondered this question as I moved the Poage Reference books to their forever home on the new compact shelving.
I found this one with a cool title – Presidential Also-Rans and Running Mates, 1788 through 1996. Finally a book to help me remember these guys! I was excited to find extensive information about men such as Theodore Frelinghuysen, who ran with Henry Clay as the Whig Party candidates in 1844. Poor Theodore would have passed right out of existence for me had I not found him here. Even I could not forget a name like that! I realized that while I use Wikipedia to get the basic idea of a subject, I would never cite it in a bibliography. This book I would.
I love the ability to find information anytime and anywhere on smart devices, however, I also respect and appreciate the research and organizational prowess of those who bring us reference books. And as an academic, I trust the printed word more. As for the begging question, I am a bit torn. Trusted reference sources with a home online are truly welcomed but I’m not sure we need to take up physical space for their heavier versions. Unique reference books without online homes are also welcome and I am happy to make space for them on our shelves.
-Contributed by Mary Goolsby , the Library Services Manager at the W. R. Poage Legislative Library.