I dropped in to visit my librarian friend at the University of Toronto this week, to thank him for all the help I received from him in the past several years in just finding "stuff" that I urgently needed, especially when I was cornered by a client and needed it yesterday.
He was bemoaning the fate of librarians and libraries in general in the future and asked me what I thought. "If everyone is tagging and exchanging meta-tags about books, then why do we need librarians?" he asked me.
My intuitive response was to reassure him, that librarians will become an even more valuable resource in the future, when everyone has to deal with even more information overload and data stress. The job of the librarian will likely change over the next decade from a "custodian of information" [where do I find X] to a "sense-maker of information" [so what does x mean? or what happens if we combine X with Y?]. As we get more and more new media channels" (and not just books) coming on-stream and others that are obsolesced (but still contain valuable information), this will require integration and synthesis of concepts from many sources, some of which, technology can aid with and the rest we will have to rely on our brains and skills.
My "flash insight" was confirmed this week by a study that shows that the so-called smarter "'Google Generation" is a myth.
A study carried out at University College London claims that, although young people demonstrate an apparent ease and familiarity with computers, they rely heavily on search engines, view rather than read and do not possess the critical and analytical skills to assess the information that they find on the web. [...here I would add the lack of synthesis and pattern-recognition skills too--Walter Derzko]
The "Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future" report also shows that research-behavior traits that are commonly associated with younger users--impatience in search and navigation, and zero tolerance for any delay in satisfying their information needs--are now becoming the norm for all age-groups, from younger pupils and undergraduates through to professors.
Source: The British Library news release
Moral of the story?....find yourself a good librarian and take them out to lunch once in a while.
Update...Pat, one librarian wrote back with some feedback saying… "always thought the internet was the full employment act for librarians."
and my librarian friend from U of T, responds with a McLuhan-like thought...
" My belief is that libraries should become more like publishers -- as they were in the Middle Ages when copyists sat row upon row copying books. It's time to reclaim the heritage Gutenburg took away from us. So librarians should be good editors and know all there is to know about publishing. The role of copyist is now being fulfilled by the server, but someone still has to create the file that sits on the hard disk."