Library is Dead.
Long Live the Library...
It Real or Is It Fake?
troubling is the tendency to rely solely on the
Web for research. Electronic databases found in the library,
such as ProQuest, MedLine, library catalogs, and other research
tools aren't problematic since they're basically digital
versions of what used to be, and in some cases still are,
in print. But the questionable integrity of other information
on the Web has spawned a serious credibility crisis.
Internet is the first mass medium that lets the general
public produce information as easily as rich corporations,"
says David Bersoff, research director for the Yankelovich
Monitor, which has studied how people relate to the Internet.
"It doesn't require a lot of money to have a lot of access.
If I try to print a newspaper in my basement, it's going
to look cheap and amateurish. But it doesn't take a lot
to put up a professional-looking Web site. The potential
for misinformation being broadly distributed is much greater."
classic case of disinformation occurred in November 1996,
when newsman Pierre Salinger breathlessly announced to the
world that he had discovered the secret of the TWA flight
800 crash. A missile attack, he proclaimed. But the "government
document" he cited turned out not to be authentic at all,
merely an Internet posting that he'd taken at more than face
don't even have to go to the Web for bad information. "Email
has been used to circulate phony but believable health warnings,
virus warnings, urban legends--even the promise of money
from Microsoft," Gannon-Brodeur says.
those who have grown up on the Web--are susceptible to
I-saw-it-so-it-must-be-true thinking. "The Internet isn't
a publisher--it's a printer," warns Lewis Vaughn, editor
of Free Inquiry magazine and co-author of How to Think
About Weird Things (Mayfield Publishing Company, 1995).
"The Web makes it easier to get information, but it's
harder to acquire knowledge."
there's no gatekeeper, the burden shifts to the individual
to evaluate what he or she sees. That's where things can
fall apart. It's unclear whether people mix up information
and knowledge, but that very thought has the academic
community up in arms. If students use the Internet without
evaluation, says English, "then potentially their research
can be poorer, and in some instances, what they've learned
can be disastrously bad."
say our moral sense is way behind our technological sense,"
adds Vaughn. "But in fact, I don't think our critical
thinking skills have caught up, either. And maybe they
won't for another century."
critical thought even more is that people don't necessarily
get savvier about the Web just by spending more time
using it, says Questia Media's Williams. The Web doesn't
work like shoddy advertising where you become wiser
by experiencing the effect of misleading information
or hype. "You don't really get burned by thinking the
Declaration of Independence was signed in 1680," Williams
we call information really has four levels of meaning,"
adds Rubin. "At the base, there is data. Processing
data to have meaning produces information, and the cohesive
relationship between information is knowledge. Ultimately,
there's wisdom, which I think of as the use of knowledge
for the benefit of society."