ibrarians among us wax romantically about a time when they knew all the
prominent publications in their field - and certainly in their collection.
Researchers can think back to a time they knew most of the important
relevant research. Both times are passing. In the near future we will look
back at today as the good old days of the internet.
I am concerned about our attitude to the growing quantity of information
on the Internet.
The complete UN archival material is destined for the internet in the next
eighteen months or so. All the primary search tools: UNCAPS, UNBISnet, UN
Press Release Database (and UNIONS?) are already online. For financial
reasons, government transparency and utility, all the 300+ shelves of past
and current UN archival material will migrate to the net.
One resource - one publisher - one truckload of information.
Just how much information will the internet hold? Most everyone I've read
that looks at this topic tends to wax into ever-grander sounding marketing
slogans, but lets try again. There are several trends working to increase
the quantity of information online.
1) Geographic boundaries that previously separated similar information are
2) The number of people capable of publishing will grow exponentially for
several years to come.
3) Vast quantities of information will continue to migrate onto the
internet for at least another five years.
4) Internet information tends to stick around. There is no attrition rate
as with newspapers.
5) And information duplication is at work: our search difficulties feed
the creation of essentially equivalent information by other authors.
If this logic is not enough, we can also look at the trends in the growth
of the internet. Or rather, let us miss this step. If I had the
statistics I would certainly wax romantically about earlier days. Let us
merely state the quantity of information is growing, fast.
Here is my predication: in 24 months, the internet will be 8 times its
current size, the global search engines will index one in 50 documents,
and most quality information will have less than 10 in-bound links.
So the internet is growing. What does this say about searching, research,
and helping patrons find information?