The Shiny New Age of Reference Materials


Many homes have encyclopedias and dictionaries, but remarkably few households keep those reference materials up to date. And in their defense, home reference owners have historically had little need to keep their reference materials current. The encyclopedia was still mostly accurate with factual information, and the dictionary was a fairly consistent book to be sure, regardless of modifications to the English language.

But things have always changed. Since the dawn of civilization, the single constant is that nothing has ever remained constant. Boundaries change, attitudes shift, and language evolves. The only difference in the modern world is that we finally have the means to keep up with the changes.

The Internet provides us with a means to update information almost immediately, no matter the subject. Encyclopedias are no longer on the bookshelves but are instead on the bookmarks tab of our favorite web browser. Dictionaries and thesauruses can be edited and appended one word at a time without having to wait for the next scheduled publishing run. On any given class syllabus around the world, a list of references is likely to contain more web addresses than call numbers.

As elementary schools invest in Netbooks instead of encyclopedias, our children are being immersed in a bold new world of reference material. We as adults may recognize the content, but the delivery system is admittedly taking some getting used to. While the rate of change for human knowledge may not have changed all that much, the rate of communication of that knowledge has skyrocketed off the charts, and this dizzying new state of immediate updates and hypercurrent events is simultaneously enormously helpful and maddeningly bewildering. So if you need help with anything, ask your kids to look it up for you.

Author: Reference Advisor

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