STERLING – Not long ago, I walked into my apartment complex in Sterling and saw a stack of phone books sitting by the mailboxes.
There must have been six or so bright-blue Sauk Valley directories neatly stacked on the ground. On top of them were smaller books that also had business information in them.
I ignored it and made my way up the stairs to my apartment. Later that day or the next, I picked up one of the 2013 directories and one of the smaller books. I figured they would be helpful in case I needed to look up someone's phone number after hours for work.
Before I began my job in the Sauk Valley, I can count on one hand the number of times I used a phone book.
My family kept them tucked away in a cabinet in our house. On pizza night, I was occasionally asked to fish out the book and look up the number to place the order.
Other than that, phone books were obsolete to me. Until I moved here. In the Sauk Valley as a reporter, a phone book has proved very useful to contact certain people.
I have multiple phone books on my desk. Whenever I need to call a source, or someone who I interviewed as a follow-up, I whip open the book and search for their name.
It can also serve as a verification tool. It's also a way to contact businesses and look up addresses, too.
Although handy, there is another book that has now replaced the traditional pages of paper that people used to leaf through frequently.
That's Facebook. Members of my generation will scarcely be found listed in a phone book, but there's little to no doubt we are on Facebook. If I interview a couple at a restaurant, and later want to make sure I have their names right, I just search for them on Facebook.
Facebook won't present me with someone's number, but I can reach out to them through the site. Many times, I've sent someone a Facebook message online in an attempt to reach them.
Facebook is useful in many other ways. Sauk Valley Media once asked readers of our Facebook page if they would be attending a midnight showing of one of the wildly popular "Twilight" films.
When a reader responded with an interesting comment, I messaged her online and asked if she would talk to me for the story. She wrote back. Not only did we get the story, she also had some great photos posted on Facebook of her at popular "Twilight" locations we could use.
Facebook gives us multiple ways to learn information about people and interact with them.
As society's habits have changed, now the place to be found is online.
That lonely stack of phone books at my apartment complex stayed there for at least a few days. They are gone now. Who knows if someone picked one or two up and gave them a home. Chances are they may have ended up in recycling.
Sauk Valley Media reporter Kiran Sood covers government and happenings in Sterling and Rock Falls. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 800-798-4085, ext. 529.