One of the more curious questions surrounding libraries and information is What is information? The immediate answer is that all printed media is information. Second to that is that all digital content is information. This is often where the answer ends, and the definition of “information” is seen as fulfilled. However, it is hardly where information itself ends.
I see my role in librarianship as both seeking information and in presenting it. A patron comes to me needing help in finding published articles of a certain subject. They often don't possess the skills needed to separate the sound from the noise. Many patrons are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information available - the presence of the internet as well as the ability to quickly network with other libraries and borrow their materials means that the mountain of available information has rapidly become unscalable. Even the most fluent information professional would likely never be able to explore all the materials relevant to a patron's research needs, let alone discern what is and is not going to be helpful to the patron. 1)
Even with the difficulties that present themselves to those in the LIS fields, the need to connect people and information has never been greater. The question, “Are libraries still relevant?” is often asked, and the answer is a resounding Yes! It may seem that the prevalence of data indices such as Google or Bing make finding information easier than ever. Yet with the rise of these tools, the amount of information available to be found has risen even more.
But there exist forms of information that even the most intelligent search index cannot bring you. In her 1999 article Mana, Manna, Manner: Power and the Practice of Librarianship 2), Jennifer Cram wrote:
“Our libraries are the collected wisdom and foolishness of humanity, and every aspect of human behavior. The most powerful use of a library for any individual is continuous, life-long browsing, building up a background knowledge of the way humanity behaves. This knowledge contributes to personal wisdom.”
Cram was correct in showing that libraries are full of not only general information, but also are rich in experiences and lessons. This is perhaps the most valuable form of information for any given community, be it an academic library or a public library reaching out to its community's young people. By providing access to information that is made up of human experiences, we are providing access to a teacher that cannot be found 3) in any given classroom - the collected experiences of all humanity.