Friday, September 12, 2008

Technology Preserves Librarians

While advances in technology continue to rapidly improve our daily lives and enhance our ability to expand our collective knowledge, these advances carry the potential undesirable effect of information overload, which in turn could then hamper our ability to further our knowledge. Technological advances have increased our ability to observe and collect data and have increased the speed of communicating any knew information, which has the effect of increasing the amounts of and the discovery rates of new knowledge and information. While new technologies are developed to help cope with storing all of this new information, one is left to wonder if there is too much.
Technology has always helped our species drive forward in our quest for knowledge, understanding, and information, but now as we use technology to improve technology, the rate of technological advancements has vastly increased and continues to dramatically increase, thereby rapidly increasing our knowledge base. Technological advances in communications have also improved the ease and speed of communicating information across the globe and beyond. This improvement in communication and the spread of knowledge helps foster the generation of new information as other people use and work off of that newly communicated information. Technology has also made publishing much more efficient, meaning we as a species can turn out much more information quickly and cheaply. This also means that the publishing community in general does not have to be as critical in what actually gets published since such a great quantity can be published. This phenomenon has the effect of both increasing the amount of information being spread, but it also has the effect of spreading useless or bad information into our collective knowledge base. All of these situations help grow our knowledge base at an ever increasing rate.
Fortunately, technology has also developed methods that aid us in storing all of this information. Digital libraries and databases allow us to store vast amounts of information in relatively small areas. However, know that we have all of this knowledge and information, scholars and other people need to sift through it all in order to find the relevant information they are seeking. With all the information out there, this can seem like a daunting task. It would almost be a full-time job for someone in a particular discipline to keep up with all the information in their field alone. In order to move their field forward, they need to be able to work off of the information already generated, which means they need to be able to find it in the first place. Just sitting down and attempting to sift through all the information that is out there could easily overwhelm a person and prevent them from finding what they need to know, which in turn prevents them from generating any new information. This situation places librarians in a new and very important position. Having trained individuals in place working with other disciplines in order to help gather, organize, and maneuver through the seemingly endless amounts of information becomes indispensable if our species is to continue in our quest for knowledge and information. Far from negating the need for librarians, technology has developed a situation where librarians, with new technologies and skills, are desperately needed to help control the storage and flow of information.

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