Information has Value: So Who Pays for It?

May 27, 2015

Laura Saunders

SLIS Unbound: Why do we need libraries when we can find almost any information instantaneously online?

The question of whether we still need libraries continues to be raised in various forums, from the New York Times (da Loba, 2012) to Forbes (Denning, 2015) and NPR (Weeks, 2015), to personal and community blogs. Those who question the library’s value tend to point to the—seemingly—ubiquitous access to information in the digital age. Why do we need libraries when we can find almost any information instantaneously online? Responses to this question are often couched in terms of bridging the digital divide and providing access to computers and the internet for those who do not have (and perhaps cannot afford) it at home, or providing access to higher-end technology and multimedia production tools, as in the case of makerspaces. While these arguments are legitimate, they (and the questions that prompt them) ignore the basic fact that in our knowledge economy, information is treated as a commodity—an entity which has economic value and can be owned, bought, and sold. As such, vast quantities of information are not freely available, regardless of access to technology. This issue of information as a commodity has important consequences for society and for libraries, and it is crucial for librarians to engage with the issue as professionals and as citizens in a democratic society. In this blog post, I would like to consider some of the implications of the commodification of information in the hopes of spurring further conversation on the topic.

Article by Associate Professor Laura Saunders. Read the full article at Unbound