Across the Goshen library reference desk

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:48

    In spite of the fact that the so-called paperless office has become almost a byword for technological hubris, the digital revolution continues its mission of turning words and images into ones and zeroes—for better or worse. The aim is total digitization and the provision of universal access to the widest possible universe of materials. But without communication between computers, the sphere of accessibility to these digitized documents would remain frustratingly small. While assisting researchers at the reference desk, librarians often come up against a misconception held firmly in the minds of even the savviest library users, the mistaken notion that the "Internet" is a bottomless well of information free for the taking. In fact, what we call the "Internet" might more accurately be described as a set of high-level protocols governing a vast infrastructure of wired and wireless relationships between smaller networks allowing for the transmission of data across a spectrum of platforms: in other words, the Internet is a road not a destination. Although the above may strike the reader as pedantic or at best academic, this distinction can have real-world consequences for the researcher interested in quality resources. The sheer volume of information available via the web, and the seeming ease with which it can be accessed — I just typed "Arthur Rimbaud" into Google and received 238,000 hits in (literally) a fraction (.31) of a second — can bewitch the unwary into believing that they have hit the mother lode, when, in fact, they have merely scratched the surface. Our next installment will discuss how the Internet can be your pipeline to quality information, and how you do indeed get what you pay for. Submitted by Matt Gomm Goshen Public Library