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    After 25 years on the job, a former provost examines the world on campus and in higher ed.

The Library Scavenger Hunt
April 11, 2011 - 9:24pm

On the news recently there was mention of a scavenger hunt that will be held in the New York Public Library as part of the centennial celebration of the magnificent Stephen A. Schwarzman building. I am one of a legion of fans of this magnificent building and I am even more appreciative of the incredible collection housed in the building. My relationship with the Public Library goes back to when I was a little kid and always excited to go to my local library and pick out another book to read. Yes, television and the movies were both very popular with me and my friends but books were easily their equal. In college, my library usage reached as you would expect a much higher level and in graduate school, the library was central to my coursework and my research. And after receiving my Ph.D. and my faculty appointment at Hofstra, I was a regular in the Hofstra government documents room, which as you can imagine was a focal point for most economists.

Now I know already what most readers are thinking, namely how different the world is today and that is certainly the case. Utilization of the government documents room for economic data is almost unheard of, and utilization of the room in general is just a small fraction of what it was just a decade ago. I can access the data I am looking for from anywhere and can slice and dice the data in multiple ways in a fraction of the time than previously was necessary. The world has certainly changed and I for one am enormously pleased with the changes.

But this blog today is not about technology. Rather my focus is the scavenger hunt and what will be looked for and what will be found. In that regard I have a confession to make. Especially when I was working on my dissertation, I spent long hours at the New York Public Library and at key points in the research process, it was especially hard to stop or take a break. There was a policy in effect at the time that prohibited any food or drink from being brought into the library. For me to even have a quick snack required that I return the resources I was working on, pack up my belongings, and leave the library. So what did I do to minimize the number of times I needed to stop working on the dissertation? I hid chocolate bars (many chocolate bars) in my brief case and when the opportunity presented itself, I sneakily snacked on the chocolate. I’m a chocolate fan so this was no hardship, but now I’m starting to worry that this scavenger hunt will uncover some chocolate that may have been left in the library years ago by an economics doctoral student.

Technology has made information more readily accessible and in most libraries common sense has also made snacks more readily accessible. I’m impressed with the progress on both fronts.

 

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