I may be old-fashioned, but I'm a firm believer in the age-old adage of "read the fine manual" (that’s RTFM for short). I should be a supportive and sensitive mentor when working with new SQL Server folks. But the practice of IT people not at least trying to find an answer on their own has always been a pet peeve. SQL Server professionals are especially fortunate because SQL Server Books Online (BOL) is excellent compared to some examples of online technical documentation.

BOL covers basic syntax, of course, but also includes a wide range of best practices and implementation concepts in addition to a surprising wealth of detailed internals and architectural information. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve provided SQL Server tech support when the clients or readers could have quickly searched BOL, using the obvious keywords, to find the exact solution they needed.

Finding your own answer is always the best way to learn; you’ll remember the answer better and longer than if a colleague simply feeds you the information. If you’ve already developed a taste for browsing and research, kudos! If not, you can still change your ways.

I’m also old-fashioned in that I enjoy curling up with a printed book instead of squinting into the wee hours of the morning trying to read volumes of text from a computer screen. Hmmm. BOL is a great educational resource, but reading it online may not always be practical or preferable. What’s a SQL Server professional to do? Over the past few months, many readers have asked how they can order a printed copy of BOL. Here's the answer, straight from Microsoft's SQL Server Web site:

"To order the 12-volume set of SQL Server product documentation, call toll-free (800) 360-7561. The Part Number for the documentation is 228-00340. The content is identical to the SQL Server 7.0 Books Online that is included in the SQL Server 7.0 product CD."

Thanks to Paul Czarnecki for tracking down this handy ordering number!