Let's imagine together that you are the faculty and I am an academic dean at a fine, small liberal arts college not unlike Earlham College, where we have the pleasure of sitting this morning. As dean of this small college, I am aware of the rapid proliferation of shiny little computer screens across our campus. My secretary has one, of course. But it's the presence of computers in the academic buildings that has captured my attention. In the physics laboratory, students are using computers as instruments to collect data and analyze it; then they use the same computers to graph their data and to generate lab reports. My colleagues in the English Department, most of whom have their own word processors, are rethinking their writing assignments based on the assumption that students can revise their drafts more easily in our basement computer clusters. When I use the library catalog, I find myself logging on rather than flipping through long rows of cards. And now the librarian at a neighboring institution is holding this conference to explore the assumption that technology will soon be able to provide my faculty members and their students with "unlimited information access."
The image of my hitherto orderly institution being overwhelmed with an undifferentiated tidal wave of "information" is at
Balestri is Assistant Dean of the College, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey.