Five Myths about the Information Age

In the April 17 Chronicle of Higher Education online, Robert Darnton – Harvard’s University Librarian – calls five prevalent ideas about the Information Age a font of proverbial nonwisdom.  “The book is dead.”  But more print books are produced every year than the last.  “We have entered the information age.”  But every age is an age of information in its own way and with the media available.  “All information is now available online.” Not for researchers who spend much time in archives!  “Libraries are obsolete.” Actually libraries are seeing increasing numbers of patrons. More than simply warehousing books, libraries offer the public much-needed guidance in the wilderness of cyberspace  and give crucial help to job-seekers, since want ads have disappeared from newspapers.  (I’ve heard this from someone in the Harris County Library System:  they’ve been helping job-seekers left and right.)  “The future is digital.”  Yes, but new modes of information tend to not obliterate older ones, for example, radio did not destroy newspapers.  Darnton also wrote The Case for Books, which is a very fine book, and The Great Cat Massacre, a classic example of an academic book with a vivid title.

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