The Internet has transformed the way people access and search for information, but it is both a blessing and a curse. While there is more information available, there are more creators (publishers may be a better word) of information than ever before. This changes the meaning of knowledge because everyone disagrees on everything, and the authoritative voices are usually drowned out by the self-proclaimed experts. The Internet is a positive influence also, because it facilitates collaboration between people to solve problems. This change impacts how libraries serve their patrons because many are adjusting their service models to accommodate desires for creation and working together.
In his book Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now that the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room is the Room, David Weinberger explores how the Internet has changed the creation and consumption of knowledge. Weinberger argues that “…in a networked world, knowledge lives not in books or in heads but in the network itself” (p. 45). He explains that the real power of the Internet is to bring people together because working collectively, people can accomplish more. He provides many examples of crowdfunding efforts and teams of people working together on an international scale to fix something. Weinberger has a positive outlook on how the Internet has impacted society and despite the fact that this book is nine years old, it remains very relevant.
The Internet these days is full of “fake news”, ads masquerading as news, and real news hidden among everything else. Weinberger’s book is especially relevant in today’s world because with all of this available content, it can be difficult to determine what is trustworthy. This directly connects to information literacy, which is something that staff at different types of libraries can help teach their patrons. While there is not one clear definition of information literacy, it concerns the searching for and evaluation of information. In a time where many people use primarily online resources, librarians can help to teach the public how to identify the reliable sources and avoid the problematic ones. With the development of models like the Hyperlinked Library, interpersonal connections are becoming the new heart of libraries.
The topic of knowledge and how people acquire it is important for libraries and their staff because knowledge is an important part of their endeavors. As Buckland explains, “Librarians must concern themselves with how individuals use information (books, journals, etc.) and also with how they become informed and knowledgeable” (p. 11). Information professionals should understand the ways that people are utilizing the Internet to connect with their patrons to be able to help them. Libraries facilitate and provide access to information so an understanding of where people get their information from is critical.
Increased access to information creates opportunities for innovation and libraries can help make these types of changes possible. One example of a library model that can help to accomplish this is Library 2.0 which “…empowers library users through participatory, user-driven services” (p. 5). Libraries, which used to be a solo activity, are now focusing on group dynamics by emphasizing collaboration and connection. Libraries are focusing on better meeting the needs of users instead of managing the materials in the building. Weinberger’s book is important because the Internet’s impact reaches around the world and it represents a fundamental shift in the creation and consumption of information. There is much debate about if this is a positive or negative change, no one can refute that a change in people’s perception of knowledge.
Buckland, M. (1992). Redesigning library services: A manifesto. Chicago: American Library Association.
Casey, M., & Savastinuk, L. (2007). Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service. Medford: Information Today.
Weinberger, D. (2011). Too big to know: Rethinking knowledge now that the facts aren’t the facts, experts are everywhere, and the smartest person in the room is the room. New York: Basic Books.