For those of us who study Economics, and especially those of us who study the Economics of Philanthropy, the idea of a “public good” is central to our area of inquiry. Such a good is one that can be shared by many people at the same time, with some common examples being police and fire protection. And, I am reminded after a semester of writing, libraries.
This past semester was spent working on revisions to a text book that had never yet been revised. Soon after committing to the project, I realized that I would need to learn quite a bit about some very specialized topics. I immediately went to the library at my college and asked the librarians for help, and was pleased at how willing they were to help me find sources to begin my education on these very particular topics. Game theory? After they realized that I was not from the Education department in search of games to play in the primary grade classroom, my inbox began to fill up with useful links and possible books. Experimental Economics? With a little help, I was requesting books like I was a kid in a candy store. Soon, my living room was cluttered with books and academic papers, as I sifted through them, highlighting the papers and putting sticky tab arrows at relevant sections in the books.
The entire semester would not have been possible had it not been for what I have come to believe must be the eighth wonder of the world; “OhioLink.” This service, which links our tiny college with academic libraries from throughout the state, gave me access to just about any book I could possibly desire, all arriving in a handful of days. While the writing project is winding down, I am sure that my new addiction to OhioLink will continue for the remainder of my academic career. I recall the experience I had many years ago, when I walked into a bookstore that had just opened near my home, and stopped myself only seconds from the checkout when I realized that the pile of books in my basket was going to cost me hundreds of dollars. I have the same feeling now with OhioLink, except that now I don’t need to stop myself! Click, order, click!
But the most helpful aspect of the library this past semester was not just the unlimited supply of books and articles, but the people who worked in reference and assisted me in my searches. They were incredibly patient with me as I sometimes struggled with the web page where books and articles are ordered, leading them to often offer to order things for me, when I (quite frequently) got miserably caught up with the technology. They seemed to be actually interested in what I was writing, and supportive when I took my research in a new, sometimes tangential direction. Thanks to them, and to OhioLink, I hardly noticed that I was working out of a small library housed in a small college located just miles outside of Cleveland, Ohio.
Oh, and speaking of Cleveland, Ohio, I need to thank the Cleveland Cavaliers for a great year of basketball that helped bring my family and friends together to celebrate wonderful evenings watching their games, often into the very late hours of the evening. Surely, a type of “public good”, the games brought much joy to my home and my family. And now that our city has won a championship for the first time in over fifty years, we can step back, and for the first time since I have lived here, not have to say “wait until next year.” I will write more about this next week!
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