Got a problem? Got an answer?

Lorcan 1 min read

I was interested to receive a note about the new Pew study [pdf] on how people go about solving problems involving information needs. It was interesting to see the positive message about libraries.

The survey results challenge the assumption that libraries are losing relevance in the internet age. Libraries drew visits by more than half of Americans (53%) in the past year for all kinds of purposes, not just the problems mentioned in this survey. And it was the young adults in tech-loving Generation Y (age 18-30) who led the pack. Compared to their elders, Gen Y members were the most likely to use libraries for problem-solving information and in general patronage for any purpose. [Information searches that solve problems]

I am still away so have not had time to digest the report, and I am sure that there will be a lot of comment in coming days and weeks. I will certainly be reading it closely on my return.
However, my eye was caught by one important finding. While 58% of people surveyed said that they turned to the Internet when faced with one of the problems posed, 53% said that they turned to a professional (doctor, financial expert, etc). This is unsurprising in itself. These are “information professionals”; they “manage knowledge”. If it means anything, this is part of what living in an ‘information society’ means: the management of information and knowledge is an integral part of large areas of what we do. Libraries and librarians have an important role here. The professional outlook of the archivist is becoming more important in interesting ways. However, against this wider background continued use of the phrase “information professionals” seems an increasingly misguided practice. Information management is central to many professional practices and many types of information are managed.

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