This is a post I made at Stephen Lewis’ blog partly disagreeing with his post about Library Access, the Limits of the Web, and the Shelling of Sarajevo. Found from Doc Searls’ blog posted as Findings. I haven’t included many of the conversation I have else where on this site because I was worried about broadening to scope too much, but screw that. Part of the reason I write here is so I can reference my own progress, so I may start including some new areas of interest such as the following.

Excerpt from the Stephen’s original post:

My own take is that while the web might theoretically have the potential of providing more shelf space than all libraries combined, it is quite far from being as well stocked. Indeed, only a small portion of the world’s knowledge is available online. The danger is that as people come to believe that the web is the be-all and end-all source of information, the less they will consult or be willing to pay for the off-line materials that continue to comprise the bulk of the world’s knowledge, intellectual achievement, and cultural heritage. The outcome: the active base of knowledge used by students, experts, and ordinary people will shrink as a limited volume of information, mostly culled from older secondary sources, is recycled and recombined over and again online, leading to an intellectual dark-age of sorts.

My thoughts:

I think you’re undervaluing the new primary sources going up online, and you’re undervaluing the new connections that are possible which parchment can’t compete with like this post I’m making to you. I definitely agree that there is a ton of great knowledge stored up in books and other offline sources, but people solve problems with the information they have, and in many communities – especially rural third world communities, offline sources are just as unreachable, if not more, than online sources. The cost of getting online, though, is far less expensive than getting access to older forms of offline sources, and that’s the greatest threat to modern libraries and offline sources.

Cost alone will drive as much information as possible online – not the cost of moving established information necessarily, but the cost of new information, especially considering poorer communities entering the mix. Some information may have to be “re-invented” if it isn’t already online, and that’s ashame. However, connection and interaction are the real drivers of knowledge, and knowledge is far most valuable than information.

Those are two attributes, connection and interaction, are almost inherent in the internet, and yet those two are precisely lacking in offline sources (without already being in an academic environment at least). Frankly, considering the greater communities at large, it is almost the imperative of the modern library to move online and get established sources up. Otherwise, the greater communities at large are likely to pay the price of re-discovering already discovered information and re-inventing already invented ideas, and libraries risk becoming disconnected from those communities for their lack of relevance. That will be the true dark age of our day, and honestly, it’s one that already exists in rural and third world communities.

Still, knowledge will spread and knowledge prospers best in an environment of connection and interaction. As long as the internet is the best environment for that it will be the inevitable destination of those seeking knowledge and progress along with those looking to spread new information and understanding.

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