The concept is called “information literacy”, and it’s a skill
set that is crucial now and will become increasingly important
to academic success and daily life in the future.
I’m old enough to have been in the profession during the early
days of the electronic era. It was 1978 when I first heard the
now familiar high-pitched connect tone. I was connecting interactively
with the National Library of Medicine’s medical literature database
in Bethesda, Md., using a dumb terminal, a teletype machine
located in the basement office of the hospital where I worked.
The purchasing department had been using the machine to order
supplies electronically, and I’d gotten permission to give it
I’ll never forget the first time because it seemed like a miracle.
I felt like Alexander Graham Bell. I recognized what a powerful
tool it was and that I would never (well, almost never) have
to search the print Index Medicus again. I knew this was a true
revolution in information access that would save hours of time
and enable me to search with a precision never before possible.
That was 25 years ago, and in the intervening years, technology
has made possible digital feats that I could not have conceived
of then. Twenty-five years from now, I’m sure the profession
will be remarking on the primitive state of today’s technology.
We have come a long way, but despite Google’s claims, answers
are rarely instant and effective research skills are not intuitive.
Although artificial intelligence is gaining ground, Google and
other search engines are still oblivious to contextual differences,
variations in word meanings, and metaphorical expressions that
human intelligence picks up on easily.
Sorry, Larry, the fact is that Googling is just the first step.
It’s what happens between the initial Google and the ultimate
application and evaluation of the information that keeps us
librarians off the endngered species list.