Saturday, December 30, 2006

What did you do when the Internet is down?

You might already know about the recent Internet/ data disruption -- what I call the "Great Internet Crash in East Asia". The impact to businesses has been great: 30% dip in online airline bookings; canceled orders by financial market traders and fund managers; travel and logistical companies are still trying to recover lost business as data lines are being restored (see The Straits Times, 28 & 29 Dec 2006).

I was alerted to the problem last Tuesday when I received an SMS asking if I experienced a slowdown in connectivity (I did). Then our office network folks confirmed that Internet access to sites outside Singapore was affected. Users of the library's multimedia service were affected (those who logged on to check their mails or access overseas websites).

My colleague and fellow liblogarian, Ivy, has posted her experience of the events at the Asian Libraries blog (yeah, I'll talk about that new blog soon). For some reason, I found her post funny. Perhaps the way it was written. She had an interesting encounter with a senior citizen who was trying to access email. Ivy observed that:
If an old uncle is so reliant on hotmail and has almost forgotten the art of mailing a letter using stamps, well, this just shows how the world has grown "connected" over the years.
That's certainly another perspective, other than lost business transactions. Ivy's post also alluded to just how important that sort of connectivity was for librarians:
It was a test on us librarians' skills to answer quick reference questions without the internet. For example, someone asked what is the national flower of Myanmar. We tried all the encyclopedias, almanacks and factbooks but were unable to find. This morning, I was happy to see my best friend Mr Google greet me on my PC. The first thing I did was look for the national flower. Within seconds, Mr Google tells me...
[Read the post if you want to know the answer :)]

I've yet to ask my colleagues at ASK! how they coped with the questions during those last few days. The liblogarians in Australia don't seem to have been affected by the disruption (I read that some services in Australia was affected).

Now that connectivity to overseas site is up, I've been checking my Bloglines feeds to see what Singaporean bloggers are saying about the Internet disruption. Generally no rantings or ravings; just simple statement of facts about the disruption. Or maybe they wanted to rant and rave in their blogs but since connectivity was down, they couldn't? : )

Regarding the Internet and Librarians
Librarians, I'm sure, will just try other sources and means in satisfying an enquiry. Service levels will be affected somewhat. It's not that the Internet, i.e. search engine services, has superseded "traditional" reference materials. But one cannot deny that librarians are relying a lot more on internet services like Google, for largely similar reasons why non-librarians find them a boon. For the average user, search engines are more efficient compared to using traditional print sources. The Internet provides access to a large body of materials in the same time it takes to use traditional print materials.

Also, it's not just access to search engines services but also to emails, online groups, MSN (connectivity with overseas librarians).

As with any successful species on earth, we adapt. When the Internet is down, successful librarians will learn to cope as best as we can, with whatever we have on hand.

And as in all human-related events, I feel it's not a question of whether a similar event like "The Great Internet Crash in East Asia" will happen again, but a question of 'when'.

For human beings, while we maintain our proficiency in using Internet-based tools and technology, we should still keep a handle on the more "traditional" skills, whatever they may be.

On a personal note, while the Internet was down, I missed checking-in on my online contacts and several blog posts had to be postponed. On the upside, I had more time to read and knit (yeah, knit!)

So, what did you do when the Internet was down?

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4 comments:

  1. Having no Internet should be a new test for future librarians :P

    This is what I did when the Internet went down: I picked up my camera, headed out of the house, and walked like mad.

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  2. Anonymous8:08 pm

    No, I didn't notice any disruption to my connectivity here in Perth at all. I read that there was some disruption in Sydney, though.

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  3. Anonymous6:59 pm

    i think as it gets easier and cheaper to access the internet, less people will rely on print sources. for eg, it could be possible to search an ebook to see if the info u want can be found in it, but for print books, u would most of the time need to actually flip the thing as there is just so much a catalogue record can describe, even if the table of contents is provided in the catalogue. Here's an interesting link: http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6332156.html

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  4. Anonymous5:17 pm

    I think having no Internet can be bad but it can't be worst when your computer refused to boot up! That's an even greater tragedy and I shudder to even think of what I have lost....

    http://coolinsights.blogspot.com/2006/12/day-music-died.html

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