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The Future and Past of Information...and Libraries...and Google Books

For over my entire career in libraries, I've been reading about the doom and gloom, end of the world-type stories about libraries, but I wanted to post about this particle, The Library in the New Age in the New York Review of Books. I enjoyed, and there are a number of reasons that it is very relevant to libraries and Web 2.0.

First, it takes a historical perspective in understanding the question, "What is information?" here's a quote:

Information has never been stable. That may be a truism, but it bears pondering. It could serve as a corrective to the belief that the speedup in technological change has catapulted us into a new age, in which information has spun completely out of control. I would argue that the new information technology should force us to rethink the notion of information itself. It should not be understood as if it took the form of hard facts or nuggets of reality ready to be quarried out of newspapers, archives, and libraries, but rather as messages that are constantly being reshaped in the process of transmission. Instead of firmly fixed documents, we must deal with multiple, mutable texts. By studying them skeptically on our computer screens, we can learn how to read our daily newspaper more effectively—and even how to appreciate old books.
from The New York Reivew of Books, Volume 55, Number 10 · June 12, 2008
The Library in the New Age
By Robert Darnton

Second, it helps us tone down the hype surrounding blogs (in this case, but I think technological change in general) and take a broader view. Yes, things are changing, but the degree of change and the impact of that change may or may not be as significant as we think. (It might be, but we need to keep the wide perspective.)

Third, the perspective on the Google Book project (and Google in general) in relation to libraries is great. Let us not forget that each has its own role to play.

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