I’ve known Barbara Quint, aka bq, since we were both working librarians—she at RAND Corp. and me at BankAmerica. Over many years, we’ve agreed, disagreed, fought, cooperated, competed, and collaborated, and we became fast friends. We’ve been on panels together at conferences and have sat next to each other at professional meetings. She wrote articles for me when I edited ONLINE magazine and I wrote articles for her when she edited Searcher. We shared the nom de plume Footsore Searcher when covering conference exhibit floors. For the past 4 years, we’ve worked together, usually harmoniously, on this magazine, Online Searcher. That collaboration is now at an end, since bq has decided to retire.
It’s hard for me to believe that I won’t have bq around to bounce ideas off of, that her insights and outrage won’t move my thinking in different directions, that her passion for libraries and online searching won’t shine through on the pages of this magazine. But I know how to get hold of her; she’s not off the hook yet.
Here are my favorite reactions to the news of her retirement from contributors to Online Searcher: “bq-to-the-rescue is going to retire? Wow!” and “Retiring? The force of nature that is bq?”
I’m not going to wax too nostalgic about the “good old days.” I think we’ve moved forward in very important ways. Yet I see a tussle between nostalgia and digital disruption in our professional lives. Those of us who have been affiliated with the online information revolution since the beginning—yes, you can count bq among them—can fall victim to the affliction of nostalgia. We fondly remember the intricacies of Boolean and the joy of creating long search strings that retrieved exactly what we wanted. We delighted in outsmarting databases and finding hidden material on aggregator platforms.
As web search engines eliminate advanced search capabilities and send us to their (possibly biased) algorithm-driven results, our super searcher skills are more in demand than ever. As publishers establish proprietary platforms, our ability to adapt to new environments is critical. As scholarly publishing is disrupted by the legitimate Google Scholar and the pirate Sci-Hub, we worry about the survival of vendors that make their reputations (and their money) based on subscription and APC models. As newspaper survival and the preservation of news come into question, we fear being unable to research major issues using 21st-century news sources.
Online disrupted print decades ago—and bq was out in front, leading and celebrating that disruption. Today’s digital disruption is more pernicious, due in part to fake news, falsified scientific research, disappearing credible news sources, and “scholarly” predatory journals. The promise of the internet providing a level playing field for democratizing information has its dark side. Misinformation and disinformation spread across the internet as quickly as legitimate information. Reputable and disreputable information are conflated.
Information professionals need to constantly learn new skills and exercise critical thinking to deal with our digitally transformed and disrupted world. We need to position ourselves as the arbiters of determining accurate data. Times change. We move on. We adapt. We try to anticipate the next information revolution. We search on. Happy retirement, bq!