What librarians, cooks and call centre workers have in common

Anonymous Patron sends "this from " Think libraries ever had a monopoly on providing information to people? How did we lose it? What does that mean for the future of how we do our jobs? What does working in a call center have to do with being a librarian?

Our challenge as librarians is to secure our place in the information marketplace. It’s a waste of time for us to try to be all things to all people in what has become something really huge. It is better to do a few things really well.

Are librarians the fast food workers, or the high end chefs of the future?"


Nature Debates: Science must ‘push copyright aside’

Anonymous Patron writes to share "this item from by Richard Stallman,

"the founder of the GNU project, launched in 1984 to develop the free operating system GNU (an acronym for ‘GNU’s Not Unix’), and thereby give computer users the freedom that most of them have lost. GNU is free software: everyone is free to copy it and redistribute it, as well as to make changes either large or small. The GNU/Linux system, combining the GNU system and the Linux kernel, has an estimated 17 to 20 million users. Stallman was awarded a MacArthur Foundation fellowship in 1990."

"The US Constitution says that copyright exists "to promote the progress of science". When copyright impedes the progress of science, science must push copyright out of the way."

Writing on copyright issus and scientific publishing, this is a thought-provoking piece. -A.K.


Bias in information

nbruce writes "Bias in information gathering is a fact of life, something we all need to remember when evaluating sources. “A plea for biased information,� by Thomas A. M. Kramer, MD in Medscape General Medicine 6(1), 2004 points out that “Collecting information from pharmaceutical representatives. ..can be enormously useful for both the practitioner and the patient, as long as one understands the inherent biases. Drug reps are paid to talk to doctors about their products, just as car dealership salespeople are paid to talk about their cars. It is my firm belief that pharmaceutical representatives should be made to earn their money. In their interactions with me, I demand that they teach me something. I will tell them what their competitors are saying about their product and listen to them respond to it, and I will ask them why I should prescribe their product instead of their competitors' and listen to what they have to say. More often than not, I learn something useful from this process. Whatever their bias may be, the representative has access to information from the company that can be quite useful.�

Should doctors shut out the drug rep when evaluating drug choices? Should pharmaceutical companies be denied the opportunity to sponsor CME classes for doctors? The author concludes, “. . . we must be involved with the pharmaceutical industry because these people make the drugs. If we don't work with them, not only will we destructively protect our ignorance, we will abdicate any influence on the process of drug development and marketing. The history of the human race is replete with examples of the danger of isolating ourselves from information and institutions because we are frightened of being influenced.�"


The Twilight of Digitization Is Now

The Twilight of Digitization Is Now, by Thomas E. Hecker.

"Contemporary wisdom holds that the scholarly community is in transition from a paper-based knowledge system to an electronically based system. 'Twilight' argues that this transition is not sustainable and that constraints on energy resources and other necessary resources will arrest digitization in the not-distant future. Thus, archives in physical formats, not digitized archives, are essential to preserve the scholarly record. "


How people use electronic resources funded by OCLC

Norma writes "The story, STUDY WILL HELP EXPLAIN HOW PEOPLE USE ELECTRONIC INFORMATION RESOURCES is in the December 2003 e-issue of Ohio State Research News.
The $1 million project is a collaboration between Ohio State and the Online Computer Library Center, Inc. (OCLC). The project will be partially funded with a $480,543 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The remainder of the funding will come from Ohio State and OCLC.

Full story here with links."

Darn it, reading stuff like this makes me wish I hadn't left OSU!


NY Times - Year In Ideas

Steve Fesenmaier points us to the NYTimes The Year in Ideas.

Each December, The New York Times Magazine looks back at the year through an unusual lens: ideas. This issue is not just a compilation of the year's most significant and thought-provoking ideas. It's also a salute to the schemers, oddballs and other unorthodox geniuses toiling away in their labs and libraries, bent on changing the world armed with nothing but a brand-new big idea.

So what were the big ideas in Library & Information Science?


Too Much Information??

This is a great article about information literacy. Please read the entire thing and then think about it. Here's the first paragraph.

Despite having more information at our fingertips than any generation before, there is little evidence that our ability to make
good, timely decisions has improved. A musician is not someone with an instrument and a songbook. Similarly, to be "information
literate" - able to extract knowledge from the welter of choice - we need to know how to orchestrate the technologies and "listen"
for the results. As a society we are computer and internet literate yet information literacy lags. We have computer hardware and
software but often ignore "wetware" - the first, most important, cog in the information seeking machine is ourselves.

The article also provides a great definition of information literate seeker:

The information-literate seeker "understands cultural, ethical, legal and socioeconomic issues surrounding" IT and "follows laws, regulations, institutional policies and etiquette related to the access and use of information resources".

The full article from

[via Aaron Tunn]


Internet 'snags for young'

" Using the internet at school can lead to teenagers losing their confidence and becoming frustrated, a new study by a North lecturer claims."

"Most teenagers lack the more complex information gathering skills necessary for internet searching, ultimately using the internet inefficiently, says Dr Alison Pickard of Northumbria University."

"Dr Pickard has just completed a four-year research study into the subject and will present her findings at the fifth International Northumbria Conference on Performance Measurement in Libraries and Information Services next week." (from Newcastle)


Excess of Virtue

SomeOne writes "Excess of Virtue, By Lowry Bowman, says the emergence of the Christian Right, the national tumult over abortion, creationism versus evolution, the Coalition for Better Television, library censorship, prayer in public schools- all such matters-can be seen in microcosm by looking at what happened in a small, rural community in the mountains of southwestern Virginia. They led to political chaos with neighbor against neighbor, clergy against clergy, and to fist-fights over such secular matters as land use planning. And payment of real estate taxes, too. It began over a profound morality play.


Essays Imagine the Future of Libraries

Here\'s A Short One [NOT Free] from The Chronicle of Higher Education on a recent essay contest sponsored by Fairleigh Dickinson University and the New Jersey Association of Colleges and Research Libraries spawned such visions by asking what college libraries will be like in 2012.

Steven Bell, the library director at Philadelphia University, thinks some of the essays mistakenly disregarded the library building in favor of virtual spaces. \"I think in the future the building will play a more prominent role in how the library will reconfigure itself as a cultural center on campus,\" he says.


Scripted Brains: Learning to read evokes hemisphere

Lee Hadden writes " From Science News, "Scripted Brains: Learning to read evokes hemispheric trade-off."
childhood through adolescence, the process of learning to read involves an
amplification of specific types of left-brain activity and a dampening of
right-brain responses, a new brain-imaging study finds.
The complexities of pediatric brain imaging have precluded studies
that trace the neural development of cognitive skills acquired during
childhood. Using a task that isolates reading-related brain activity and
minimizes confounding performance effects, we carried out a cross-sectional
functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study using subjects whose
ages ranged from 6 to 22 years. We found that learning to read is
associated with two patterns of change in brain activity: increased
activity in left-hemisphere middle temporal and inferior frontal gyri and
decreased activity in right inferotemporal cortical areas. Activity in the
left-posterior superior temporal sulcus of the youngest readers was
associated with the maturation of their phonological processing abilities.
These findings inform current reading models and provide strong support for
Orton's 1925 theory of reading development."


What is a library anymore, anyway?

Martin Raish points to an Interesting One @ First Monday. Michael A. Keller, Victoria A. Reich, and Andrew C. Herkovic write about how libraries in the future will undertake local control, especially for long-term preservation and accessibility of digital as well as analog collections.

"We have observed a propensity for information technologists to predict
with complete confidence the imminent demise of libraries. The seeds of
this prognostication may date back to Vannevar Bush's seminal paper of
1945, but the forest of such predictions has grown thick in the past
decade. In our observation, the confidence with which such predictions
are made is inversely proportional to the predictor's professional
habitual use of published information. . . .

So to some extent the question of what is a library anymore could be one
about which, "if you have to ask the question, you wouldn't understand
the answer." Our intention is to attempt the answer anyway.


A librarian without a library: the role of the librarian in an electronic age?

A librarian without a library: the role of the librarian in an electronic age?, by Carol Newton-Smith, and Sue White, takes a look forward, from August 1995, to see what the development of electronic networks will do to libraries.

This paper will examine the role of the librarian in an increasingly networked environment. Will librarians survive in the age of electronic information or will they become \'endangered species\'?

\"Electronic networks offer the opportunity for improved access to information. This will only happen if the enduser is empowered to use new technology to access information. Our clients no longer have to enter into the library to obtain the information that they need. Librarians are in an excellent position to act as to information facilitators, educators and collaborators.\"


Creating a Culture of Ideas

Technology Review has An Interesting Story by Nicholas Negroponte, co-founder and back-page columnist for Wired magazine, who says expertise is overrated, and innovation is inefficient, because it is undisciplined, contrarian, and iconoclastic.

He tries to answer the questions what makes innovation happen, and just where do new ideas come from?

"Our biggest challenge in stimulating a creative culture is finding ways to encourage multiple points of views. Many engineering deadlocks have been broken by people who are not engineers at all. This is simply because perspective is more important than IQ."


The importance of knowledge

There\'s a discussion going on at LIBREF-L about a reference department thinking about changing its name to something including the word \"information\". In one of the replies, Victor Lieberman of the University of North Dakota made a statement that I instantly fell in love with:

Think of somebody staring out at the night sky. A computer says that you have gazillions of pieces of information at your fingertips, all the stars in the heaven are there for you to see, nothing hidden. A librarian will be willing to point out to you that those particular stars, over there, are the big dipper.

That, I believe, in a nutshell, is the difference between \"information\" and \"knowledge.\"

To me, this speaks to the core of librarianship, and many of our current issues can be traced back to this concept. Why do we need more libraries, with more books, rather than just letting everyone do their own Internet searching? Because libraries are staffed by people with knowledge, people who know how to sift through the data and come up with value. Why do librarians need Master\'s degrees? Because surviving the rigors of a graduate program, regardless of what is taught, proves that a librarian has the skills necessary to find and organize information and synthesize knowledge. Why should a librarian be paid at an equal level with other professionals? Because, like engineers, we can take raw information and make it meaningful, manipulating it in unique ways and producing not just a collection of data, but something entirely new.

Read Victor\'s whole post.


Free as Air, Free As Water, Free As Knowledge

Bruce Sterling made This Speech to the Library Information Technology Association way back in
June 1992.
Even 10 years ago he said Academia, libraries, cultural institutions were under protracted commercial siege.

Though, in his predictions he was off, just a bit:

\"Welcome to the Library of Congress. Jolt Cola is the official drink of the Library of Congress.\"

We now know it\'s Coke.

\"What\'s information really about? It seems to me there\'s something direly wrong with the ``Information Economy.\'\' It\'s not about data, it\'s about attention. In a few years you may be able to carry the Library of Congress around in your hip pocket. So? You\'re never gonna read the Library of Congress. You\'ll die long before you access one tenth of one percent of it. What\'s important --- increasingly important --- is the process by which you figure out what to look at. \"


Now Here's a Really Big Idea

Wired is running This Story on plans to create a human mental map -- a database that would contain a log of every human idea. Darryl Macer, associate professor at the Institute of Biological Sciences at the University of Tsukuba in Japan,formally proposed in the November 14 issue of Nature that researchers from various disciplines, including genetics, sociology and history, meet next year in Japan to discuss the project.


Claude E. Shannon: Founder of Information Theory

I found This One from over at Scientific American quite interesting. They say there\'s a new type of information science in town, and it\'s called \"quantum information science\". They Have a Second Story that explains what that means.

This one is on Claude E. Shannon, who, in a landmark paper written at Bell Labs in 1948, Shannon defined in mathematical terms what information is and how it can be transmitted in the face of noisw, and thus was born \"Classical\" information science .


The Politics of Research

The Politics of Research is an excerpt from: Martin, Brian. "The Politics of Research." Information Liberation. London: Freedom Press, 1998. pp. 123-142. The page says:

"The Minneapolis Community & Technical College Library was the first and only library in the United States to own a copy of this book on Oct. 1, 1999. As of May 16, 2001 seven other U.S. libraries have purchased the book. This demonstrates that just because knowledge is produced and published does not mean that it will be widely distributed. "

Abstract: The work of professional researchers is strongly influenced by funding, disciplines, hierarchy and competition. As a result, it is mainly useful to corporations, governments, professions and researchers themselves. Strategies to challenge this pattern include critical teaching and research, popularisation and community participation in research.


The Internet-only Research Approach: Does the Web Have It All

An Interesting Article over at From Now On takes a look at exclusively relying on the Internet to research. The author,Ken Vesey , says he is not a Luddite and fully embraces technology, but he says it is our responsibility as educators to model sound research behavior, and not cheat students of the opportunity of finding the best information by only leading them to a portion of the resources available.



Subscribe to RSS - Theory