The Information Landscape

Vermont fall landscape

Vermont landscape as opposed to information landscape (photo by Barb and Dean on Flickr)

The library doesn’t have everything. I know that for some things the web is way better. Like current information for example. While I was riding the bus the other day, I saw a number of police cars and flares out on the road near the Montpelier exit. I immediately searched “Montpelier” on Twitter and found out within a matter of seconds that a tractor/trailer had jackknifed and had the freeway closed. The web does current information very well. And the web has very different places to go. Twitter does some things best. Google does search pretty well. Yelp is great for recommendations of businesses.

The library does scholarly, reliable information well. You can get millions of hits on the web. With libraries you surely get less, but sometimes less is more. The resources within a library are often tailored to a community’s needs. The resources are curated and vetted for a specific group of people and often it is stuff you cannot freely get on the web. And in this age of information overload, sometimes a smaller pool of really quality information is just what we need.

When talking to students I don’t tell them that the library is the only place they should go for information. I’d be doing them a disservice. I talk instead about the idea of an information landscape. The library is just one piece of that landscape that also includes the web, and TV and newspapers and their friends and a lot of other stuff. The library can be a really useful piece of that landscape though, especially for the academic work they’re doing. As information users we need to choose the places we go for information based on their strengths and weaknesses. And the library does quality like few others.

Andy Burkhardt


  1. It’s important to differentiate ourselves from other types of information. We need to present our strengths to users so that they see why they might want to use us instead of the web for some things. One strength is definitely quality; another is a finite, tailored collection. There are probably other strengths as well…

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