Magazine article Information Today

Interview with Dr. Lee Edwards, Vice Chairman, National Commission on Libraries and Information Science

Magazine article Information Today

Interview with Dr. Lee Edwards, Vice Chairman, National Commission on Libraries and Information Science

Article excerpt

Interview with Dr. Lee Edwards

Dr. Lee Edwards is the Vice Chairman of the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science and Chairman of its newly formed Information Policy Committee. Currently he is the senior editor of World and I and a lecturer in politics at the Catholic University of America. Dr. Edwards brings an eclectic journalism/world politics background and a wide-ranging set of interests to his current task. He received his B.A. from Duke University, did graduate work at the Sorbonne, and was awarded the Ph.D. from Catholic University of America in World Politics. He has always been a working journalist, doing stints as writer and editor for such diverse organizations as the Chicago City News Bureau and Broadcasting Magazine. A trend spotter early on, Dr. Edwards wrote the first biography of Ronald Reagan. He was a fellow at the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and continues to write a monthly column for the Boston Globe.

Q: What is the origin of your involvement with these broad public policy issues on information? A: It's happened because of my appointment to the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science. I was more or less obliged to plunged into this area, but subsequently I have become fascinated by it. Q. What is the origin of the Commission? A. The National Commission on Libraries and Information Science was formed in 1970 by public law and was created as an independent agency to advise Congress. The timing coincided with the new technologies of the Information Age beginning to make themselves felt on the Hill through the rise of various legislative issues dealing with areas legislators knew little about. In effect, the Commission is a result of the Information Age. Q. Why is this called the Information Age? A. In the '20s, we had radio; in the '50s, television; and in the '60s, really, the beginnings of a plethora of inventions collectively giving us the opportunity to assemble and disseminate information at a greatly accelerated pace. Inventions like computers, fiber optics, and telecommunications capabilities have increased beyond our understanding our capacity to transfer information. This technologically driven Information Age is as important in its implications as the Industrial Revolution. It is impacting the way we live, work, think, and interact, both nationally and internationally. And Congress is just now becoming aware of its responsibility vis a vis this enormous flow of information. Q. Is all this information simplifying our lives? A. On the contrary, I think it is making them more complicated. The fundamental question today is what to do with the flood of information we now receive. Q. Where does the federal government fit into this information explosion? A. It has yet to understand and deal with its full implications for public policy. But it will have to. Bob Chartrand, consultant to the Congressional Research Service and one of the most knowledgeable people in this field, just wrote a report in which he discusses some 100 bills (out of 2,700 bill digests) in the 101st Congress which deal with information policy and technology. This gradual awakening of the Congress to the importance of public policy on information has enormous implications in policy-making and allocation of resources. Q: What are some of the underlying principles that public policy must address? …

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