Mark made my day by sending me the following. He was cool enough to send me the entire article, although I don't think I can post the whole thing because I'd be breaking copyright law. Sigh. Anyway, the cite is below in case you want to find the rest yourself. The gist of it is how humans have recorded knowledge throughout history and the major pitfall of each technique. You don't get the full humor without the first part, but here's a liberal quote:
Why Learn to Use a Library Anyhow?
By Harold J. Ettelt
Analog, May 1983
The Connecticut Libraries, Volume 17, Number 2, 1975
“So man made his greatest invention: libraries (ask a librarian if you don't believe me). In libraries he stored the writings, and later, copies of the writings. They got bigger and bigger and more and more complex and gave him a headache.
To solve this problem, man inadvertently invented his greatest headache: the librarian (there are many “greatest” headaches, but this is the right one). The librarian could organize the writings so that they could be found easily; he could protect them against fires and rats and stuff. And he could even help others use them. He could remember where things were written up and what books held what bits of information, and he did it all for a ridiculously small salary. But here we were relying on a man's memory again.
So man made his greatest invention: the index (there are many “greatest” inventions, but this is the right one). Sometimes called an index, bibliography, catalog, or abstracting service, the purpose of any of these is to tell you where the writings you want are to be found. Because the accumulated writing are so enormous, using these indexes is about your only hope man has of being able to find out what has been written up. Without them, much of those writings are as effectively “lost” as if the library had burned down.
That's what libraries are, then: vast accumulations of writings in an orderly arrangement. Using them consists of knowing how they're arranged and how the indexes work.
None of which answers the question this essay is supposed to answer, except that if you don't learn how to use a library, you're effectively back to having a few writings in your hut and hoping it won't burn down.”