Saturday, August 16, 2008

"Getting The Most Out Of Your Library"

Here's an interesting article by Williams Hicks of Digital Web Magazine which could be read as a counterargument to Rick Anderson's Away from the “icebergs”.

I found the article linked from "Why use a library?" on Tame the Web.

What first caught my eye was this blurb:
It says succinctly what I've been blathering about for several posts now.

Hicks is addressing a readership of Web professionals, and he catches his readers' attention in this way:

So I want to talk about libraries. No, not the JavaScript kind, the old ones—bricks, mortar, and books.

Chances are that when you need design inspiration, help with some code, or almost anything related to the business of web design you hit Google, Flickr, and in quick succession a dozen or more sites that you’ve found consistent and relevant to your needs over the years.

You’ll probably harass your friends over the favored social network of the hour, and usually the results from all of the above will be immediate and relatively decent.

However, if you find yourself on page six of a result set, spending much of your hard earned cash on tech books, needing more art inspiration, or if you’re just looking for one of those “old” things that will probably never make it onto the web, I’d like to offer some suggestions.
He then give a beautifully detailed and nuanced guide to the materials and services which physical libraries have to offer, ranging from archives of non-digitized information and images, to Interlibrary Loan services, to information architecture.

On a lighter note, the article mentions that if

you are a developer who hangs out at a coffee shop then you might be surprised to know that in an attempt to draw more students in, many academic libraries have built small coffee shops into their floor plans, and that many larger institutions will offer free Wi-Fi throughout the buildings.

Further, you’ll find that their floor-plans often offer both low and high traffic/noise areas in which to work, and either might work for you, depending on your tastes.
He concludes as follows:

I hope I have demonstrated that libraries may be worth returning to if they don’t currently receive any of your attention. Many large institutions have nothing but their patron’s, and often society’s, best interests at heart.

While you may not get instant gratification from a library, and few if any are really cutting-edge when it comes to their use of web technologies, there is something to be said for the diversity and quality of information they provide you in your daily development tasks.
An excellent piece of writing!


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