Thursday, April 14, 2011

Why the Library is No Substitute for the Internet

My apologies to many of the fine librarians I know who have really kept up on the changing world of networked knowledge and the internet. The image at the left was posted by Xeni Jardin from Joe Sabia at BoingBoing. It is a sign on a shelf in his public library in Milford, Connecticut. (Click on the image to see the whole arguments.) It is a shame that the gate-keepers of knowledge are so little informed about what is happening with the internet. My responses are below.

1. Not Everything is on the Internet. Not everything is in the library either. I do not know any library that could currently afford to contain all of the books that are on the internet.
2. The Needle (your search) in the Haystack (the web). It is not very hard to find things on the internet. If you are having trouble, go to a library where the librarians believe in the web. That would be a good reason to consult a librarian. Why aren't the Milford librarians taking the time to teach then online critical thinking skills required to find academically viable materials?
3. Quality Control Doesn't Exist. The internet contains numerous repositories of vetted information (open access journals, MERLOT, etc.) Librarians have the opportunity to catalog these repositories and again, teach the critical thinking skills required to find good information. What the sign really means is that there is no one controlling the information. This has its pros and cons but why can't a librarian help me through this?
4. What You Don't Know Really Does Hurt You. Exactly my point. What these librarians don't know about the internet is hurting our children.
5. States Can Now Buy One Book and Distribute It to Every Library on the Internet. They do not understand electronic books, digital rights, or open education resources. How sad. See #4.
6. Hey, Bud, What About E-Books? Reading on a machine is different than reading a book.
7. Aren't There Paperless Universities Now? There should be but there aren't. But, university libraries are getting smaller and smaller. They are becoming service centers rather than book storage facilities.
8. But a Virtual State Library Would Work Right? Yes, in fact it will, especially with open source textbooks. This is a ridiculous statement. Using the old paradigms and business models, it would cost a thousand times that estimate. The sign, I am hoping, was put up before Google, Amazon, and the Kindle and iPad were invented.
9. The Internet: A Mile Wide, an Inch (or Less) Deep. This only partially true, it is mostly hundreds of miles wide and very shallow but it also has a couple of deep canyons of information and networks of experts in there. It contains the warp and woof of human expression. Where are the librarians and information managers to help make sense of it all? Not in Milford's library!
10. The Internet is Ubiquitous but Books Are Portable. And orange trees make terrible espresso. Hey Milford! 1997 is calling and it wants its MLS back!

Disclaimer: I have a nice little library at home but not because the internet is shallow!

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1 comment:

  1. I had the horrible misfortune to work for the author of this poster for a number of years. It's sad that so many libraries across the country invested money in purchasing this poster and are STILL displaying it...despite its obvious inaccuracies. Mark Herring gives all librarians a bad name and the profession would be much better off without him.