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.