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Coffee with Mimi: Keeping up with information isn’t what is used to be

By MIMI BECKER

While it may not seem so, each week I attempt to hang my thoughts together in this space I am privileged to use. But, as I sit down to mull it all over now, I can’t quite seem to pick up this thread.  

As I stroll to and from work and errands, I observe the world. I also use the time spent in my little sitting area in front of the windows in my kitchen while I gaze out on the activity in my backyard.   

Often some little incident I observe sends my thoughts off on a tangent, or I am reminded of a task I have to add to my “to do” list. This causes me some anxiety unless I stop immediately, rummage through my bags for paper and pencil and make a note.

I won’t apologize or make excuses for this. My family may think I have reached the age where I should perhaps consider one of those memory medications advertised on TV. You know, the ones featuring a really accomplished and fit looking couple walking vigorously through nature and then heading inside to connect to spiffy high tech equipment to log in to their consulting business website.

I maintain my need to record information is a result of the fact that my brain is so full of interesting stuff, there just isn’t enough room to add new stuff until I free up some of the memory. Kind of like your cell phone or computer. That’s an LOL for the younger folks.

Just remember, you are a mere three decades from this. Better think about that. I’ll give you paper and pencil. I know you think you can make a note on your cell phone, but there comes a time when you won’t remember where you put it.

Actually, believe me, you won’t want to know where it is. You will break the tie to the wretched thing for your own sanity and peace of mind.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my Google machine and refer to it daily, frequently. I don’t know how we worked without the efficiency of  immediate and wide variety of available information.

But, goodness, it is somehow very satisfying to get what you need from the printed word. What will you do if the electricity goes off and all your devices are dead and there is no way to recharge them? Please, I know there are ways to combat just such a cyber crisis, but stick with me for the sake of the argument. Or, just to humor me. You’ve gotten this far.

Remember when homes had a set of encyclopedias? Some families had a complete collection of the world’s knowledge in beautiful big volumes all arranged in order on a prominent shelf in a common family room. Parents would acquire the set in a variety of ways; subscriptions, grocery coupons, door-to-door salesmen. By the time the oldest child was at a grade level when a teacher might assign some research project requiring more than family knowledge, the set would be complete.

To be sure, the growth of knowledge can easily outstrip the life of a finite collection of printed volumes nearly every day. Not to worry, there were annual updates available. A classroom teacher would be well aware of this in planning the at home educational experiences of her charges.

Time passes and the practical life of encyclopedia in a household comes to an end. The kids are gone and if you need to know something, you might enjoy a pleasant trip to the local library to satisfy your curiosity. They also take up a whole lot of space and will cost more than you want to spend to move them when you downsize to that great condo on the beach.

Where does a 25-volume set of books which weigh about two pounds each go at the end of its life of service to a family?

Well, you call the local school and some gullible history teacher will take them off your hands.  

In the days before one-to-one computer availability in schools, I had a strategy to beat the system. I had two library carts full of encyclopedia sets. A research assignment in my classroom would be strategically made, certain that every student could complete the project without risking harm to life and limb to grab the “Aa – Az” volume first. My classroom had six of the “A’s.”

What my classroom didn’t have was a complete set of volumes clear through the alphabet and annual updates in EVERY set of encyclopedia. We made it years and many assignments before this fact affected student performance.

The reality hit when a student made his final presentation about Picasso omitting the required information citing the date of the artist’s death. He wasn’t dead and the student could prove it.  

Yep, the sourced encyclopedia was that old. Soon thereafter, there was a large quantity of encyclopedia sets, complete with carts, available to any person willing to haul them.

Technology is a wonderful, necessary resource. Picasso died in 1973. I can prove it right now.