There are days when I marvel at how wonderful the internet is.
I’m old enough to remember when it didn’t exist. One of our first year projects at University was to make a Teletext page (remember those?), and one of my final dissertations was on new and exciting developments in LANs (Local Area Networks), where computers could be hooked up to each other in businesses and educational establishments. It was something very few businesses knew about or were utilising at that time. As a bunch of Library and Information Studies almost-graduates surveyed their handiwork there was talk of the World Wide Web and how it would change things. Back in 1991 things were changing rapidly.
We also talked about how new technology would enhance the librarian’s job rather than delete it (that would never happen we were told). Let’s not talk about that, eh?
But despite the bad things the internet can bring, in the last few days I have seen how wonderful it is for connecting us all through work.
I sat and fiddled with my Excel timesheet (procrastinating? Moi?), then decided a timer would be grand. So I asked Mr Google, and within a couple of minutes had access to a website that not only told me it could be done, but walked me through the process and even gave me the code to make it happen.
Don’t worry, I can read basic code so I checked that it was on the level before I used it. You do always check these things don’t you kids?
Now I have an all-singing, all-dancing timesheet for work. It’s the little things that make me happy.
But there was more internet happiness to come.
Using my webmail facility, I was in contact with a human being who is travelling the globe. We are working on something and the internet allowed me instant contact with him. Think about it. How fabulous is that? In days gone by I would have had to get him to a phone at a time mutually convenient to us both, wrestle with a bad connection and spent a heck of a lot of money in the process.
I was also in contact with a friend I’m helping … who happened to be just as far away but in the opposite direction!
And it’s not just internetty email that’s fabulous.
This week I have used the internet to help me with some research. I’ve gained access to documents I would have had to travel to America to see twenty years ago (or spent a fortune phoning the educational establishment, begging for a photocopy and paying for thousands of miles worth of heavy postage).
I’ve connected with my tutor and other OU students over on our online gateway, submitted work and received feedback as well as given it.
I’ve checked out some fabulous photography of Whitby and North Yorkshire, and got a bit homesick. Go check Glenn out and give him some love, and you’ll also see why I’ll always call Yorkshire my home.
I’ve also used the internet to do some background reading for a company I’m helping. No more obscure journal inter-library loans for me. (hmmm, back to librarian redundancy, and now I’m being part of the problem). But seriously, we have to move with the times and I was one of those librarians. Show librarians love people, they are (I was) so much more than book stampers who deal in fantasy romance and DIY books.
In just a few days I’ve used the internet for all those things I’ve listed. I’ve also used it to talk to potential clients, other professionals over social media and colleagues on professional forums. It has kept me up-to-date and included – just because I live in a remote part of the UK doesn’t mean I have to be out of the loop, I’m just as informed as anyone else. In a week I’ll also be attending an online AGM, connecting with people all over the world.
And the internet’s not just for work …
I’ve also used it for looking up recipes, directions and contacts. I’ve played countless online games (I’m rather partial at the moment to King’s new Shuffle Cats card game) and checked into You Tube, Facebook and Twitter.
Despite being hooked up 24/7, the internet really is a wonderful thing. Without it work would be unimaginable – I’d have to rely on the post, telephone calls and make long, long trips to visit clients. For freelances it’s a Godsend. For me, I’ve seen the rise of the internet from the inside. As a trained librarian and information specialist, right from that first day in a crowded lecture room, I’ve been told that information is king. My contemporaries and I have seen the rise and fall of the information professional, and are waiting patiently for the next ride of the wave when people realise that not everything is to be trusted or believed at face value. But for now, for our day-to-day lives, we have to flow with the systems and retain our professionalism. Computerised exchange of information is something that was unimaginable even twenty years ago, and it can be a great and good thing.
We now live in a world where you can read the ramblings of an editor sitting at the top of mainland Britain at the same time as surfing the net for your next purchase, or talking to your friends via text.
What a wonderful, connected world we live in!