The Dead Tree Collection

I was visiting someone at the university I used to work for 20 years ago today. After our lunch date I had about an hour to kill before I had to get to my next appointment. As I passed the library I decided to pop in. I had always liked sitting there, reading the current magazines and chancing on fascinating books.

The lockers seem to be the same ones ... the sofas seem to be the same ones ... the books seem to be the same. I head back to the department having books in my field. Oh yes, I remember when this was new, and this one, and this one. 1991. 1992. 1995.

I look for the collection of books on the topic I will be teaching this semester, Cryptography. Oh yes, a few books here. Let's see: "Datensicherung durch Chiffrierung". 1979. Okaaaay. "Contemporary Cryptography": One version from 1992, one from 2005 by different authors. Ah, here's a gem: "Cryptology and the Personal Computer with Programming in Basic". 1986. Pages and pages of BASIC code to implement a Caesar code.

The oldest book was from 1961. There were 3 books from 2008, the next oldest were from 2005.

I sometimes try and tell my students that there are things called "books" that are bits of dead tree with ink on them that keep information around for years. But today I realized that even though it is nice to have this stuff around for reference, a library is no good if it is not kept current. *My* collection of cryptography books is more recent than this.

I assume that this is because the government slashed funding for universities, or because someone thought everything is on the Internet anyhow anymore.

But it's sad - this dead tree collection, with an empty rack where the new acquisitions used to be displayed, is not a place where a person would want to spend time. It is just too depressing.

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