The advantages of the library over Google

By |  December 23, 2019 0 Comments
Photo: Karl Danneberger

Karl Danneberger

Per my doctor’s orders, I take a walk each day across campus. My walk takes me by Ohio Stadium, the physics building, the Ohio Union and through Thompson Library, the main library at The Ohio State University. Thompson Library is a stoic building that is core to the university.

Libraries are in the business of information discovery, guarding against fake news and strengthening critical evaluation skills. During the admission process, libraries are an important consideration in a student’s decision to attend, actually ranking ahead of technology facilities, student unions and recreational facilities. Attracting the strongest possible students — graduate or undergraduate — is a strong predictor of an institution’s rank and prestige.

Thompson Library opened in 1910. It went through an extensive renovation and expansion in 2009 that cost $108 million. I wondered why we were spending so much money on a building that nobody was going to use. Google provides what we want to know without leaving the office, research laboratory or dormitory. It seemed that physical libraries were dated, and a virtual library was coming with terminals linking digital information within the halls of curated books.

Golf course superintendents benefit from information available online. Without leaving your office, you can access a plethora of information on any topic. For example, I typed “winter overseeding” into Google, and it returned about 381,000 results. In addition, superintendents post on social media pictures and videos of real-time activities occurring on golf courses. Electronic devices are providing answers at the touch of a button.

However, a negative impact of individual information searches is the loss of personal interactions among colleagues. Directly or indirectly, the ease of obtaining information has led to attendance drops at conferences, chapter meetings and morning breakfasts with colleagues. Justifying the time is difficult, especially if I can find the answer at my fingertips.

As I walk daily through our renovated university library, the number of students in the library catches my attention. Regardless of the time, every chair, table, computer terminal and meeting room is jammed. I ask the students why they are there. The answers include working on class projects, data analysis and gathering background information. Much of this is difficult to do alone. The library is where students meet to gather and discuss the validity of data, usefulness and application appropriateness. Without applying rigor to data, all that information is just a table ornament.

Using my winter overseeding search as an example, thousands of articles came up focused on whether something is the best way or if there is a new way. For example, methods for winter overseeding in the western United States often are different from practices in the southeastern United States. Seeding rates and preseeding preparation often vary.

The information available often is difficult to judge. Is the data fake? What data are they using? Is this only one person’s experience? These are just a few of the questions that arise. Searching for answers by yourself does not allow you to ask one important question: What do you think?

Attending conferences, workshops and seminars or inviting colleagues to your golf course or to breakfast allows you to interact on topics important to your operation and to get new perspective, experiences and knowledge. Video conferencing can substitute for personal interaction. The disadvantage of video conferencing is the lack of body language and facial expressions among the participants. I answer questions after a conference presentation. My answer makes sense, but observing my body language allows attendees to get an idea of how confident I am in that answer.

Back in the library, those students sitting at tables or in those rooms have the best — and factually correct — data available to them. The reason they are meeting there — whether for a project proposal or assignment — is to ask each other, “What do you think?”

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