The phonebook: a useful tool or a redundant relic?

When I pulled into my driveway the other day, I saw a bag of phonebooks resting against my courtyard door. It had been raining, so the bag was messy and wet. And the birds had pooped all over it, too.

I took the bag inside and found four new phonebooks. Four!

I think we’ve reached a point where phonebooks are redundant and wasteful. When was the last time you used one to find a phone number?

Also, phonebooks take up a lot of space. I used to dedicate one of my largest kitchen drawers as “the phonebook drawer.” But nowadays, I don’t want something I never use occupying such a prominent space.

The librarian in me very much appreciates the beautiful indexing work that goes into making a phonebook.  And every time I look up “Doctors,” I get a little thrill when the controlled vocabulary redirects me to the entry for “Physicians.”

But the responsible adult in me says we need to save the planet and its resources. One way to do this is to “opt out” of receiving phonebooks.

It’s such a sad sight at my office to see the superseded phonebooks in huge piles. There are thousands of yellow-covered phonebooks sitting outside certain buildings that have been designated as official phonebook recycling centers. The phonebooks sit there in these fence-like containers, enduring the sun and heat and rain and so on. I actually dread walking past the pile of phonebooks. It’s like I want to apologize to them for something. But I’m not sure what.

When you need to find a phone number, do you use the phonebook?

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