The website she helped build for SLAC was a search box that helped researchers quickly pull out important bibliographic information about particle physics research papers. This was a task that, before the SLAC website, required an actual phone call to a librarian at Stanford so that they could manually retrieve a reference. It was time consuming and limited to business hours. Once the SLAC website was built, it was as simple as entering some text into a search box and clicking a button
. Anytime, anywhere.
When I try to extract lessons about web history, I often come back to this idea. The web is a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but it’s easy to forget that access to information is its superpower. That’s what I’m doing right now. I’m giving you access to a chunk of knowledge that I have, that you (probably) don’t. And before the web, that would have been a lot harder to do.
As a librarian and a web advocate and a person with a natural curiosity, Addis was drawn to this. And as we move ever beyond the early days of the web, it can be useful to reach back and remember those lessons, so that we can better position ourselves for the future.