Let's talk about encyclopedias. Remember those 15-volume Childcraft encyclopedias? The 1972 version my family had was brown, but by 1976 they sported colorful spines with pictures of what was inside. The books had titles like "Poems and Rhymes," "How We Get Things," and "Make and Do." I remember thumbing through "About Me" and being delighted to find the clear sheets of organs and the circulatory system you could layer on the blank person to see where everything fit.

The Childcraft series started in 1934. According to their website, you can still get Childcraft encyclopedias, they cost $200 now. In 1934 money that would have been about $9.00. 

The 1980s encyclopedia set we used at home to write our school papers would have cost around $300 at the time. In today's money that would be over $1000. A 2023 World Book encyclopedia set costs $1200. In over 40 years, they haven't gone up much in price.

Before people had internet access, encyclopedias were a huge investment in a child's education. Where else could you find information to write that report on alpenhorns (other than a Ricola commercial)? Encyclopedias were the best place to find nearly any kind of information. Then the internet came along.

It's true that everything is available online, but not everything online is accurate. How can you tell the difference? Go to the library!

Gering Library provides online access to Explora through NebraskAccess. Explora is a combination of research websites. These include Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia as well as sites focused on history, literature, science and other topics students may need to research. These websites are curated and aren't publicly editable like Wikipedia. They are free to access online from home or the library. 

If you want to see what Explora is all about you can go to the library website at gering.org/library then click on the orange NebraskAccess picture. To enter the site you will need either a password you can get from the library, a Nebraska driver's license or a State Identification number.

When people clean out their houses we get inquiries about used World Book encyclopedia donations. Libraries don't want them. Unfortunately, they can't really be donated either.

Nobody should not be using 40-year-old information to research anything. Even though some of the information may still be useful. A kid using a 1980s encyclopedia to write a paper will not know that we have used a remote controlled car to explore the planet Mars, or that the USSR no longer exists.

What can you do with old encyclopedias? If you want to try to sell them on Ebay it looks like the going price is around $40 with an additional $40 in shipping. Prices fluctuate, but I doubt many are selling for much more than that. You can find lots of ideas on Pinterest, many of them include upcycling them into something else entirely, like furniture or lamps.

As much nostalgia as I have for my old Childcraft books, and the World Book encyclopedias, they are not very useful for today's kids. The language is dated and the information is very dated. It's difficult to let something go that was such a treasure in my childhood. Unfortunately, old encyclopedias are best used for crafting purposes. 

Every two years or so, we get a new copy of the World Book encyclopedia for our collection. Kids check them out to read them to read for enjoyment and research. We have a copy of Encyclopedia Britannica in the adult section available for checkout as well. Using NebraskAccess isn't difficult either. Ask at the library for help with any of these resources.