Monday, October 10, 2005

Is the internet a library? That's the question that's been rolling around in a class forum for the last few days. Most people say no, it's not a library, based on the criteria of a certain author we've all read. What makes a library, or a collection, even?

It is finite for one. The internet is infinite, changing every second. When I click "Publish Post" in a few minutes, there will be yet another piece of information out there in cyberspace. The internet has no bounds, no walls, no stopping.

A library, or collection, is gathered by a person (or more than one person) for a certain audience or community. There is no defined community for the internet as a whole - other than everyone who has access. And, in general, there is not one person or group or entity gathering or collecting information. Anyone with access can add information to this thing.

And there is no one checking this information to say what is valuable and correct and helpful. There is a lot of crap out there, a lot of incorrect information, a lot of things that are totally un-helpful. There are a lot of out-of-date things that no one is getting rid of. But it's all out there and no one can really say no.

So if I do a search in Google on some subject and pull up a list of 10,000 results, is that a collection, a library? That's a bit iffy. I mean it is a bit more finite and it does have an audience (me), but it's still a bit random.

One thing fellow class-mates brought up is whether a blog can be considered a library. I'm pretty close to saying yes on this. Blogs contain various types of information: images, videos, sounds, text, links to other resources. These are all selected by the "collection developer," or blog author. A community often forms around blogs, even if its just friends and family. They come because of what they can find there - meaning there is definitely a purpose behind the collection.

Part of the reality we live with is that there are many people saying "I can find everything I need through Google, so why do I need the library?" This is a very valid question. Yes, this causes some of us to roll our eyes because of the quality of information (or lack thereof) from Google, and because libraries are about so much more! But as we also found out, people don't care! Librarians, information professionals, have a lot of work to do on this...

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