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Tail Lights: January 5, 2013

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Tail Lights
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Tail Lights: January 5, 2013

Bill Crittenden

Filling the Pool Deeper in 2013

1957 Mercury Monterey

Filling the Pool Deeper in 2013
Volume 2, Issue 1

Welcome to the new year.  I'll begin with a few statistics about The Crittenden Automotive Library, and we'll see where these numbers stand at the end of the year.

89,000 pages of books
342,000 pages of reports
22,000 pages of periodicals
12,900 articles
4 days of video
2 weeks of audio

Of course it's not all going to read like a nice coffee table book about fast cars with lots of pretty pictures.  This is for the most part the "raw data" of history.  Reports, transcripts, news articles, technical manuals.  It takes others to turn it into a readable histories of automobiles and motor racing.

This Library is but one of many around the world.  There is the famous National Automotive History Collection Branch of the Detroit Public Library.  Private physical libraries include The Nethercutt Automotive Research Library, and there are other online automotive libraries like Wild About Cars.  There is a large collection of online information in Google Books, Wikipedia, and (considering that modern libraries aren't all about books) a huge amount of information in YouTube.  There are also smaller topic-specific collections of information spread out all across the internet.

No one single source, no matter how big, has all the information available.  But thanks to the internet and the efforts of so many people around the world, we have so much of it at our fingertips.  Literally at your fingertips, almost wherever you go, if you happen to have a smartphone!  Knowing how easy information is to find, and how easy it is to fact-check what you read or hear, find corroborating or contradicting information, and check the trustworthiness of those sources, all within seconds from anywhere you can get a cellular telephone signal makes online information one of the greatest resources humanity has or has ever created.  Of course, I love the feel and smell of old paper books, but when you're trying to win an argument or fix a brake caliper, the aesthetics always matter a lot less than the information!

However, there are two things that make online libraries far from perfect.  One is the difficulty of using an imperfect tool, search, for finding information spread out across a million internet addresses.  The other is that not everything can be shared on the internet while books can be read at and usually checked out of physical libraries.

A very respected teacher I know once shared something called 10 Reasons Why the Internet is No Substitute for a Library.  It really isn't.  Not yet, anyway.  Of the reasons cited, my favorite is number nine, that the internet is a mile wide and an inch deep.  I'd like to think that since this poster was created the internet's depth has reached down a few more inches.  Paper libraries, however, have had over five and a half centuries to build themselves since Gutenberg invented his press.  The internet has had far less time, but look at how far it's come in such a relatively short time!  Unless there are major unforseen life changes ahead, 2013 should be the biggest year yet since the founding of The Crittenden Automotive Library in 2006, and another great year for more information about automobiles being made available over the internet.

At least in the field of automotive information, The Crittenden Automotive Library hopes to add a few inches to the depth of the internet this year.

Links to some of the automotive libraries mentioned:
The Crittenden Automotive Library is Automotive History Beyond the FendersSM: a large collection of information relating to not only cars, trucks, and motorcycles, but also the roads they drive on, the races they compete in, cultural works based on them, government regulation of them, and the people who design, build, and drive them.  We are dedicated to the preservation and free distribution of information relating to all types of cars and road-going vehicles for those seeking the greater understanding of these very important elements of modern society, how automobiles have affected how people live around the world, or for the general study of automotive history and anthropology.  In addition to the historical knowledge, we preserve current events for future generations.

The Crittenden Automotive Library includes over 89,000 pages in books, 342,000 pages in reports, 22,000 pages in periodicals, 12,900 news & commentary stories, 2 weeks of audio, 4 days of video, 15,000 images and dozens of newsletters as well as other documents, statistics, reports, and data.  There are over 770 races' results tables broken down into individual driver histories.
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