Exhausting Research

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Not too long ago, my son needed to do some assignment about plants in his Biology class. He asked me for some input, knowing that I majored in Biology when I was in college. But my stock knowledge and what I remember was not enough, so I told him to look it up.

If that was me doing research in high school, 30 years ago, it would entail going to the library to search for the answers. Since our school’s library may not be complete, so that means I need to make a trip to the National Library in Kalaw near Luneta. It would take me some walking and two jeepney rides from our house in Sampaloc. But with Manila’s traffic, who knows how long would that trip be?

Once I am inside the National Library, I could ask the librarian at the help desk to assist me on the subject matter that I am researching, and she could search the card catalog and give me the list of books I needed to look for. If I feel that I could do it on my own, then I would head to the area where the cabinets of the card catalogs are, and search for the numbers of the books that may contain the subject matter. Usually I would like to list at least 3 books or more.

card catalog

Once I scribble in a small paper all the catalog numbers of the books I would like to get, which usually reads like this: SW 596 .C34 2016, then I would go to the area of the library where these books are located. I would be going up and down rows upon rows of books while looking for the specific numbered books. That may mean one book is located at one end of the library, while the other is on the opposite end, and one in a different floor.

After spending several minutes going aisle after aisle of books, only to find out that the book I am looking for is not available as somebody might be reading it, or have been checked out by another student looking for the same subject. Or worse, the book is available, but some naughty student tore up the pages that I needed to read. What a bummer!

However, if I am lucky and if all the stars align, all the books that I am looking for may all be available. Then I can take all the books, and find a table and read on the subject that I needed to research on. Or if I needed to go home and do the reading later, and if the books are allowed to be borrowed, I can go to the front desk and check out the books for a day or so.

typical library

Then maybe as I am heading out to the font desk to borrow the books, I would realize that I forgot my library card at home. Darn!

But wait, maybe I still can photocopy the pages I needed. So I would head out to the photocopying machine. Lucky enough I have some loose change in my pocket to pay for the xerox copies, though that means no more money for a soft drink and hopia. The photocopier is running out of ink, so the copies are so faint, but still I can read them, so that’s good enough.

All in all, to look for the particular subject in Biology that I needed to research on, it would take me at least half a day to accomplish this. That was my experience back in those days. Of course I could have just copied the assignment of my good classmate, but that’s not being a diligent student.

Back to my son, he went on to do his home work. He sat in front of our home computer and hopped into the internet. After querying  Dr. Google and after a few mouse clicks……voila! He got what he needed. It took him 15 minutes tops.

And they say doing research is hard.

(*photos taken from the web)


    1. Early on my residency, we also have to go to the library to pull up the latest medical journals to be ready for the rounds. Now, as you know, we only have to get our smart phone out, and we have the latest medical literature in the palm of our hands while we are doing our rounds.

  1. This got me asking regarding the library and how to do research – do they still teach this to children nowadays? Lucky for my batch, I was able to learn about card catalog even if the web was ramping during our time. 🙂

    1. I don’t think using library’s card catalog is being taught in school nowadays as it is already obsolete. However if a student is interested on how it is done, I’m sure there’s a tutorial in Youtube. 🙂

  2. Sheesh! I remember those days of catalogue card drawers, the smelly book cards you fill up to borrow books or publications, the lines to photo copy every single page. Sigh!

  3. I have told my daughter that they are very lucky 🍀 having many info by just a click on a mouse, yet my daughter told me that the backlash on having the whole Library on line is that the teacher expect more from the students. The nowadays teacher like that you are knowledgeable enough about the subject matter you are reasearching or the topic of your essay and that you can discuss it well when called upon to explain further…… I guess it is somewhat fair enough.

    1. I guess that can be the downside. But I would like to know “everything” on what I am researching on anyway. Though my trepidation is knowing what is and what is not reliable source. As we all have know, not everything in the internet is true.

  4. So BS Biology was your pre-med, correct?

    I can so relate to this. I had only been to the National Library once and that was during my 3rd year in college (2007). I was writing a thesis and our professor suggested we go to the National Library. We formed a group of about 9 and traveled all the way from Tarlac. If I could remember right, we were no longer using card catalogs to look for books; instead, the library adapted an online system which made easier to locate the books in different floors and among the shelves. Pero sobrang challenge pa din!

    Before, you need to scour through the table of contents and indexes to get to the particular page of the topic you want to read. Ngayon, napa-powerful ng search button and keywords. And naiinggit ako dati sa kapitbahay naming may complete volume set ng Encyclopedia Britannica.

    Napaka-entitled talaga ng generation na ‘to!

    1. You came all the way from Tarlac just to go to National Library? This generation definitely have no reason to complain that they don’t have enough time or resources to finish their assignment.

      1. Yes! We couldn’t afford to buy books and our school library lacked the resources we need. You know in public schools, books are handed down from one batch to another and the books are not often updated.

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