With some regularity, I find myself saying cheerily to students, "It used to be in print, but now it's online."
And just last week it dawned on me that they might think I'm talking about the free web.
Nope; I'm talking about subscription periodicals and books -- the library is still buying them, but they're online.
And then I realized we may have shot ourselves in the foot here, because a lot of the library's online subscriptions may as well be invisible now that they are exclusively web-based. Invisible, that is, until someone identifies a need for them and thinks to wonder if they are available on the computer -- a process and a step beyond many of the first year students I work with, I'm afraid. It takes being aware of the existence of scholarly books on a broad range of subjects to imagine that those same books could be accessible through a computer. At the community college, I'm pretty sure most students have little idea of the breadth of scholarship that's out there. I couldn't say precisely when I started to comprehend it either, but I'm pretty sure it had something to do with walking through rows and rows and rows and rows of books on particular subjects.
Now that the community who previously relied on those rows and rows and rows and rows of books is happily whittling them down to just the core texts to keep in print, it should be time to celebrate that everything is online. But everything can be nothing if you don't already know it's there.
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