Information, Short and Sweet

Article excerpt

As our lives become more rushed, we seem to suffer from collective adult attention deficit disorder.

It might sound strange, but in these days of supersized drinks, jumbo fries, and mega blockbuster movies, when Internet search engines vie with each other to expand the number of Web pages crawled-or at least brag about the number of Web pages crawled-the real trend in information is heading towards being short. For information professionals, small is beautiful.

Do I mean we want to have fewer sources, applaud disappearing data, or restrict our research to a tiny number of bibliographic and full-text databases? Of course not. I'm thinking more in terms of information delivery. As our lives become more rushed, we seem to suffer from collective adult attention deficit disorder. Information professionals are increasingly being asked to deliver executive summaries, a few bullet points for PowerPoint slides, and research snapshots. No one seems to want to read hundreds of pages of research.

Counterbalancing the "large" of popular culture are the "small" of instant analysis, 90-second sound bites, and in-depth reports that last all of 2 minutes. Should information professionals worry about research being reduced to the bare-bones minimum? Does this concentration on the small mean that we can do less research? Paradoxically, the opposite is true. It takes a great deal of research and analysis time to pluck out the essence of what we've found so that we can condense it into the desired delivery format. As we speed through searching, fingers flying, we know that our real value lies in deciphering what we retrieve, not in the retrieval process itself. Let's ensure our organizations know that as well. …