The Message Is the Medium: Online All the Time for Everyone

By Tom Koch | Go to book overview

Library, where in 1993 Steve Coffman directed a staff of FYI librarians whose job it was to find online information for clients. A researcher whose work is described in Reva Basch Super Searchers book, Coffman and his staff went online to find answers for library users who needed immediate and detailed help. The charge was hefty--$65 an hour plus direct expenses--but that included the searcher's time. Those who learn to play the game and use the electronic resources available online do not have to pay an expert for his or her time.

What was remarkable in the early 1990s was that a public library offered such a service at all. As costs decrease and user savvy increases, this type of service will become the norm. And, as more people learn the basics of simple searching, they will increasingly seek electronic rather than print reference materials. This does not mean the end of librarianship. The reverse is true. Expert searchers who understand the byways and crannies of the center cum library will be in demand for years to come. They know their resources. They know where to look. They know how to play the game, "Twenty Questions."

The most serious work, the best work, is always play. Elements of the game may change, but not the logic of its rules. Whether future users log into the library with a keyboard or use voice commands, point-and-click on hypertext, or search footnoted references, they still will have found the resources they needed by playing the game of "Twenty Questions." This business of categorization, of hierarchy and organization is, psychologists say, how we all order the world. It is the means by which humans make sense of the chaos around us. Expertise in the game will become increasingly important as more and more data are stored online, requiring everbetter questions in the search for a specific fact, datum, or opinion. There is no better example of this than the Internet in its current state of evolution. And so the next chapter focuses on it, not merely as a resource, but as an example of hierarchies, search patterns, and the evolution of these digital data/ knowledge systems.


NOTE
1.
Reva Basch. Secrets of the Super Searchers. Wilton, CT: Eight Bit Books, 1993.

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The Message Is the Medium: Online All the Time for Everyone
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • 1 - The Medium is the Message" and Other Myths of the Evolving, Electronic Age" 1
  • Notes 13
  • 2 - Old News: The Necessity for Change 15
  • Notes 33
  • 3 - Everybody's Resource: The Knowledge Center 35
  • Notes 54
  • 4 55
  • Notes 75
  • 5 - Finding It: The Organization of Online Material 77
  • Note 99
  • 6 - The Internet: Fact and Context 101
  • Notes 123
  • 7 - Mute Dialogues: Hope and Despair Online 125
  • Notes 146
  • 8 - Virtual" Realities:" 147
  • 9 165
  • Note 184
  • 10 - Quality: Fact and Opinion 185
  • 11 201
  • Notes 219
  • Selected Bibliography 221
  • Index 225
  • About the Author 229
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