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Flyer Flashback

To mark the Flyer's 20th anniversary, we're looking back at stories from our first two decades.

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How differently we looked at the Memphis Public Library's "flagship information service" in the pre-Google days.

LINC stands for Library Information Center. In the Flyer's cover story this week in 1994, managing editor Dennis Freeland wrote, "Since its inception in 1975, LINC has been the crown jewel of the public library system."

The Flyer did some field-testing of the system, and Freeland wrote, "We turned up some serious information gaps. The LINC file listed Jack Owens as the sheriff of Shelby County, Richard Mashburn as the Shelby County clerk, and W.W. Herenton as head of Memphis City Schools."

All of that information, needless to say, was outdated. As LINC would soon be.

The notion of people calling a human being to get the answer to a question seems quaint now. But this was a few years before the explosion of the Internet and personal computers.

Today the library has a new central location, scores of computers, and usually a lot of people using them. You can get to Google or some other search site and find the answer to just about anything. Not so in 1994.

"The LINC staff expanded even further in 1992 when the Magazine and Newspaper department merged with LINC. The stress of answering hundreds of calls a day and often looking for answers in sources that have not been kept up to date have seemingly taken a toll on the 30-person staff at LINC."

Freeland took his concerns to then-director of the library, Judith Drescher.

"I'm satisfied with how it's working now," she told him.

In 2007, Mayor Herenton replaced Drescher with a non-librarian. Meanwhile, cuts continue not only in information services such as LINC but, so we hear, in the magazine and newspaper business as well. — John Branston

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