Saying the Internet makes librarians obsolete is like saying the plague makes doctors obsolete

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Provocative, but you need to explain yourself. Are you saying the internet is the plague?

Perhaps a better version is this: “saying the internet makes librarians obsolete is like saying self help books make plumbers obsolete”


I’d go with:
Saying the Internet makes librarians obsolete is like saying antibiotics make doctors obsolete

That way we apply a tool to those who can help understand that tool and its use.


I think that what he is trying to say is that the Internet is a vast fount of information in need of custodians; saying that librarians (who are custodians of information) are obsolete because you think that the format generally associated with a “library” (hard copy) is becoming obsolete is missing the point.

Even if all of the hard copy disappeared tomorrow, we would still need the librarians to act as custodians of the online information: that’s what a librarian is.

A better analogy might be: Saying the Internet makes librarians obsolete is like saying that the printing press makes writers obsolete: it’s not only wrong, it’s completely backwards, as they have more work to do, not less.


Following the metaphor further, it would seem the librarian’s mission is to eradicate the internet. I am so confused.


There’s a reason a librarian’s degree is often now called a Master of Library and Information Science. If anything the internet (the medium, not just the wealth of its information) makes the library less of a concept tied to a physical location and physical media. There are a lot of online reference librarian services these days. If you are looking for physical media from your local library, you can often find and reserve it online.


Great … now all I can think of is a post-apocalyptic future where ancient buildings full of crumbling books and scrolls are guarded by cloak and plague mask wearing oracles.


That would lead us to conclude that the doctor’s mission is to eradicate illness, but that would not improve the shareholders’ value.

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I would prefer critical thinker, navigator, and teacher to custodian. Librarians were never custodians of books, either. We help to find and critically evaluate information, whatever the format.


Or at least keep it respectfully quiet.


Doctors will never be obsolete until the plague learns to charge you for the damage!


A plague that is sufficiently effective will make doctors obsolete.


Saying the doctors make the internet obsolete is like saying the librarians make the plague obsolete.


Saying the librarians make the doctors obsolete is like saying the internet makes the plague obsolete.


Interneting the saying makes obsolete doctors is like obsoleting plaque saying make librarians.

godammit I don’t know this game at all




A generation ago, people didn’t know how to find the information that they needed, but knew that they didn’t know. So they perceived libraries and librarians as useful. Now it’s common for people to think incorrectly that they know how to find anything that they need, so they perceive libraries and librarians as useless.

As a college librarian, this is one of the greatest challenges that I face. So many patrons and potential patrons think that if something isn’t accessible through a Google search, it doesn’t exist. This impression is spectacularly untrue, but prolific.

When I do library instruction for students, one objective that I keep in mind is to make searching as easy as possible. If it’s difficult for students–especially online students–they’ll just default to a Google search.


I like the comparison to the printing press, and it’s one I heard in a 1998 talk by a librarian about the Internet and the future of libraries. The printing press made literacy and information more widely available than ever, and in that it is comparable.
That was the enlightening part of his talk. He then veered off into how in ten years there would be no more need for physical libraries and what remained would be vastly more cost efficient. Instead of libraries buying whole books, he argued, they’d be able to spend just a penny or two for a sentence or a diagram, because that’s all most researchers needed. Staff could be eliminated and all those dirty books moldering on shelves cleared away.
I wouldn’t say things have gone in the opposite direction exactly and things aren’t perfect, but I think the future we’re living in is better than what he predicted.


Fair enough. I’ve heard the term “custodian of knowledge” and have adopted it without, I suppose, thinking through the implications of what the term implies (that librarians simply watch over and protect the knowledge instead of making active use of it).

I apologize for any such implications of my comment. In no way do I want to minimize any part of the important work that librarians do.

To paraphrase more clearly: I think that what Cory is saying is that the Internet brings more knowledge for a librarian to navigate, teach, and think critically about, in the same way that plague brings more illness for a doctor to treat.


It sounds like the same logic used in the lawsuit against Google Books - that by giving the public the chance to look at a single sentence of a work, it would deprive the publisher of a chance to sell the whole work.

I disagree with that idea. Without the whole book, how would researchers be able to find the diagrams and/or sentences that they’re looking for? And how would they be able to understand the context of the information?


@OtherMichael speaks with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

stolen from bad high school similes