I’m not normal. I know this on many levels. Other people unwind by having a drink at the bar or buying a new pair of shoes. Not me. My idea of fun is a form of punishment for unruly students—go to a library, do research, and take notes.
Working with a friend of mine, I’m in pre-production on a new podcast, a passion project that combines our love of storytelling and rock music.
Finding information these days, on anything, is not a problem. When I was in college, research meant packing up your pencils and notebooks and sloughing over to the library where the card catalog would be waiting. I’d have to flip through the drawers and then ask the librarian—who always looked like Lisa Loeb circa 1995—to help me find the book, which may or may not have been on the shelf. I used to love looking at the check-out cards in the back and tracing the travels of said book.
Now, it’s way easier to ask my phone, even though I feel like an idiot doing that. Anyone can Google anything, which means there’s nothing special or meaningful about that research. Go to Wikipedia. End of story.
So I wanted to do something different. Because I had always enjoyed the research process, and this is a passion project, I decided to do the bulk of my work in a real library, taking notes from real books. If you’re nostalgic, this might make you smile, but it’s clearly not as efficient or precise as asking your phone.
But as soon as I visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library & Archives, I knew I’d made the right decision. Laura, the librarian, now knows me on a first-name basis. She asks what I’m researching, and she will go through the archives before I arrive to make sure I don’t miss any cool artifacts or books.
Books. Real books. I love reading with my eyes. I have no judgment for audiobook listeners, but as an introvert and someone who values silence, there’s no place I’d rather be than in a silent library, silently enjoying a book. I prefer not to have any voices in my ears when I’m reading.
The value of real books goes beyond the aesthetics of the experience because I page through them. Because I’m not looking for an exact keyword or search phrase, I’m forced to read other sections, and that’s where the gems are hidden.
During every research project I’ve done so far, I’ve found something incredible and unexpected in the books—facts that would not have presented themselves on a search results page. And it’s those pieces of information that make my research so thrilling, which will then make the story so much more interesting.
It’ll probably be a few months before this passion project sees the light of day, but I’m convinced you’ll notice the difference when you read or listen to it. If you’re a real rock-and-roll aficionado, you might not be shocked to hear what I’ve discovered, but I guarantee you haven’t heard it like this before.
Libraries have existed for thousands of years, through every major global technological innovation. Now I know why.
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