I have a feeling I already know what I'm going to miss the most about being in school: access to subscription databases like Lexis-Nexis. For the first time in more than ten years, neither me nor anyone in my immediate family will be associated with an academic institution, and therefore none of us will have a password to access these library databases at home. Furthermore, the last time I hung around Berkeley, such passwords were becoming increasingly necessary even to use the campus library computers. For the first time since I started University almost 9 years ago, and first delighted in getting lost in the Main Stacks of Berkeley's Doe Library, metropolitan public libraries will be my main source of extra-Google information.
While I'm very happy to be graduating, this is a bit of a quandry for a freelancer/stringer/lonely pamphleteer type. A big advantage of being at a newspaper or magazine company is that the company pays the database subscription. I wanted to find out if the Berkeley Public Library
has Lexis-Nexis on site, to supplement the InfoTrac it gives to library-card holders via the web--but despite the fact that it's about 2:45 on a Monday, the library answering machine came on with a "We're closed," message. That didn't bode well, nor did the FAQ about how the budget shortfall will affect library services.
Public libraries, like public schools, are particularly vital American institutions that often get lost in the popular roll call of what makes the USA, the USA. In my humble opinion it is not apple pie, or baseball, or hot dogs, or NASCAR. Somehow knocking any of these out would not vitally affect the country in any lasting way. But the ideal that the public--i.e. anyone, no matter how humble or poor theya re--should have access to information helped make this place different, and the further we devalue and deviate from that ideal, the weaker is our Republic.