The source of all knowledge….how Web 2.0 is diluting established reference institutions

So… I was talking to my new-found friend, David C., whose incredible wit got me through a 5-hour flight on the red-eye. I just came from a wild week at a ski and snowboard festival and he, from a librarian conference… with its own level of excitement.

Our discussion ensued regarding the plight of the library industry with the increased reliance on the web in search for information. David argued the need to establish credit to the source of all wikis, blogs, knowledge search networks and forums. Validating the sources is not enough. These same institutions have to adjust to the age of web 2.0 and move forward and integrate web resources in ways to convince the user of their value. I remember a time when encyclopedias and other reference books (regardless of their date of publish) were regarded as foundations of knowledge. Inevitably however, the world changes and the source of that information has not been able to adapt and update as quickly and with seamless efficiency as the web. The Encyclopedia Britannica hence got left behind and its pages, unturned. These days web syndication is it, posting the most current information and delivering it to the live web almost immediately.

Another disadvantage of pure information sources is the lack of of collaboration that further enhances the final product. The reality is that information is moving at lightning speed and the growth of wikis and document sharing sites only proves that the quality of knowledge is not inherent in the facts themselves but the minutiae of details that enhances the information. Facts augmented by opinion seeds collaboration, new arguments and new points of view.

The world has progressed from an established source of one –> the one defining reference from which we’ve all taken for granted as truth….to a matrixed web environment where peer to peer sharing provokes users to question established facts, hence supplement meaning. This is the perceived value that perpetuates social web. Can the library industry adjust? You tell me.

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