Dissemination of Information

I have a week off between the end of my internship and the start of my full-time job! If you are interested in some of the cool things I found while going through the Cambridge Public Library's old vertical file take a look at the Cambridge History Room Wordpress. And what am I doing with my time off? Reading, of course. And drinking Mayan coffee from the Simmons Café....way too good.

But one of the books that I just finished up is True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society by Farhad Manjoo. Among the many interesting points Mr. Manjoo brought up in his book; this passage really struck me...

"It is a common mistake in the digital age. New technology gives us access to vast new stores of data and tolls with which to understand them. On the Web you can find seemingly any number you want: an instantaneous county breakdown of live election results; a census of illegal immigrants in the United States...Through my local library's Web site, I can get thirty-year-old American public opinion surveys regarding SALT II without ever having to leave the house...All of this data is empowering, certainly. It gives us a peek into fields where only experts once dared to tread. It breaks down barriers. It allows us to check on the elite. Yet at the same time, in the absence of expert comment, we find ourselves drowning in a sea of facts divorced of meaning, trying to keep afloat in all the numbers." (p 112)

I think I've addressed this issue before on this blog but I think it's a very pertinent one. As a library student so many people comment on whether librarians are not going to be needed now because of the internet or make remarks like, "You need a Master's for that?" when they don't understand that the massive influx of information makes librarians and disseminators of information even more needed in this present age.

Manjoo's excerpt above comes from a discussion of a mathematician who took the numbers she found about the 2004 presidental election in Florida and used them to further the hypothesis that the election had been rigged. Although her numerical data was correct she had not placed it into the larger context of the political history of the area, a context that refuted her claim. This happens so often nowadays online when people grab at the first piece of information they see or in our fast-paced world don't even bother to take the time to put the correct information into a larger context. These are skills librarians are taught to cultivate and can pass on to their patrons.


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