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Last login: Thursday, October 5, 2006
Imagine a colossal publisher that will accept, without question, any manuscript regardless of its contents or who wrote it, and will print it. That is essentially what the Internet allows anyone to do who knows a little html. Now imagine trying to search through that publisher's catalog - Chaotic, right?
Libraries and librarians bring order to the chaos, INCREASING efficiency by organizing the information retrieved. The Internet does not do that. I would argue that directly BECAUSE of the Internet, they're needed more than ever.
October 5, 2006 at 1:21 p.m.
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"Libraries are inefficient. Like me, kids seek fast, convenient access to up-to-date information. That's available on the Internet. In this new information age, libraries are an obsolete place to store and disseminate information. Rather than speed access to reliable, up-to-date information, libraries provide only remote, slow and inconvenient access to limited and often outdated information."
"Libraries are limited. Everybody wants access to reliable information. The Internet is a gateway to unlimited data and information about government, business, and the community."
This is the same kind of commentary that permeated the library world about ten years ago ("You can just get it on the internet"). It is also the same mentality that influenced corporations to lay off their librarians during that time, only to be forced to rehire them a year later - why? Because, to use an interesting metaphor I once heard, the Internet is akin to a library of almost infinite dimensions, with all its books haphazardly thrown on the floor. I'd like to juxtapose the rosy, utopian characterization of the internet above by detailing several very real problems with researching and extracting its information:
-There is no cohesive, universal order that organizes its contents.
-Since anyone can contribute, there is a vast amount of material generated from questionable sources that often has to be sifted to locate anything authoritarian or academic.
-Documentation, particularly in html, can be doctored with relative ease.
-As opposed to the Internet of the early 1990, in which there really was a good deal of useful and free material, today's situation is much more proprietary and money-driven. Often the most authorative research material can be had only through a costly subscription.
All these are reasons why the library is NOT obsolete, because it excels in the very aspects that the Internet falters in. Certainly, there are reasons specific to Lawrence, Kansas (No I am NOT a resident, just offering 2 cents) as to why a debate exists over the expense of the new library, and if residents do believe that the proposition is too large of a tax burden, then maybe there should be appropriate revisions to reduce the scale of the proposed library (I say this being a librarian myself). But to propose a complete rejection of the library as an institution is certainly not a way forward. In order to satisfy information needs, we should view libraries and the Internet not in opposition, but as complimentary to each other. Each have their advantages and disadvantages, its just a matter of applying the right method for the situation.
October 5, 2006 at 11 a.m.
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