Article excerpt

What this world needs is more bibles. No, I am not advocating we all join Gideons International [] and start putting the Good Book in every hotel room. (In fact, the Gideons wouldn't accept many of us, according to their FAQ, since we are not all men aged whatever to whatever. I stopped reading at that point.) What I mean is that this world needs more authoritative sources and it needs to know it needs them. It needs to identify the best sources, to analyze their strengths and weaknesses, to monitor their quality as that quality grows or diminishes, to support them and their improvement, and to get the word out so that everyone who needs information knows where to find the best.


Sound vaguely familiar? It should. That's why the world built libraries. That's why publishers seek out qualified authors and qualified authors seek out prestigious publications. That's why news organizations hire graduates of journalism schools. That's why experts of all types and fields of study have entrance requirements to become practitioners. That's why librarians and information professionals have careers identifying expertise wherever they find it.

But today here we are with the "wisdom of the crowd." Nothing new really. I recently read a blog posting--at least I think it was a blog posting--cheering the wonderful technological advantages along those lines:

   In fact, throughout human history, by far the commonest source
   of shared information was through asking other people.
   Increasingly, the online world is making it easier to ask our
   friends for help. We can even pose a question into the ether
   without even knowing which friend will know the answer and respond.

Hmm. I wonder who wrote that posting (if it was a posting). Sorry I didn't make a note of who wrote it, but, after all, who cares? We could ask the ether, the same ether that will be giving us the answers to all our other questions. I'm assuming the "ether" to which the author alluded would be the one defined by Merriam-Webster as "the upper reaches of space," though--as an information professional--I could see the need to apply an alternate definition in this situation, namely "a light volatile flammable liquid C4H10O used chiefly as a solvent and especially formerly as an anesthetic." In this professional's humble opinion, you'd have to have a goodly quantity of that former anesthetic on hand to trust unathenticated answers from the void, especially when your standard for a "friend" denigrates to the level of anyone who happens to answer your question.

Back in the prehistoric days of my library school education, I remember discussions of important studies of information gathering and usage by the Defense Department. (Anyone here remember the name Casper Weinberger?) The studies showed that researchers relied first and foremost on information supplied by colleagues. But as haphazard as that process can be, at least information gathering was done within a collegial community of expertise.

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