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ChaCha doesn’t provide answers like this

September 28, 2010

Libraries have historically been known as places of research and information, the place to go when you have a question.  Over the last few years, new methods of getting answers to questions have surfaced.   Many websites exist whose purpose is to provide answers (and profit).  These days you can get answers sent via text message to your cell phone from places like ChaCha.   Sometimes it works.  Then again, sometimes it doesn’t.  I will point out that the answers you get from non-experts should not be assumed to be accurate.  Always consider the source and the citation.

Libraries offer web services to answer questions too.  In Wisconsin you can use AskAway for fast, reliable answers provided by librarians.  Libraries are *still* the best place for people  who seek accurate and complete answers to questions.  If you want more than a sound bite, come on in to explore, discover and reflect.   You can read the research, see the pictures, hear the words, feel the story.  Whatever the question, there’s something more you can learn.

It’s my personal opinion that asking questions is an important part of life.   Here I’m talking about the kinds of questions that will never be answered on ChaCha.   Sometimes it’s hard to ask those questions because you worry that others may feel you are questioning their decision or judgement.   Sometimes it’s hard to ask questions because you are afraid of the answer.   But asking “why” generally yields benefits.

So when Bob Bell walked in to the library this summer, pointed at the building plans on display and asked, “Connie, why are you putting that wall up in the old entryway and not taking advantage of the nice architectural feature of the curved wall?” I listened and said, “Well, we talked about that during the design process.  But I don’t remember the actual reason that wall is going there.  I think it might have something to do with providing structural support for the new floor above.  Or maybe it was budget related.”   Hmmm.  Not the best answer, but an honest one.  I guess I needed to do some research to properly answer the question.

I took the question I was asked and asked a question of my own to the architect and contractor.  “Why is that wall there?”  Followed with, “Does it *have* to be there?”  Followed with, “What would it cost for it not to be there so we could put in windows?”  Followed with, “How much of a priority is this?” [which can be translated to] “Do we have the money?”  And, finally, “Is it too late to make this happen?” (Okay, so that was more than one question.)

I’m so glad the architect, the contractor, the library construction committee, the library board, and the city council all believe in the importance of asking questions.

This week they removed the wall studs and cut the holes for the windows.  We now have natural light in an area that was looking very dark and tunnel-like.   Talk about the transformational power of light.  And the impact on the exterior design is just as significant.

Thanks for coming to the library with your question, Bob.   I can guarantee that a ChaCha answer would not have been the same.

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