Today, we are witnessing a constant influx of information. There are too many journal titles, too many books, too many websites with images, videos, blogs, and social media platforms. Too many for any one person to be able to navigate without some guidance, help, some technological tools. Astronomer Carl Sagan, in his 1980 video series Cosmos: A Personal Journey, notes that if one were to read a book each week throughout one’s adult life the total would be only a few thousand works. He then comments: “The trick is to know which books to read.” Information scientist M. E. Maron asserted that “information overload is not a function of too much information but a function of poor methods of navigation of that information.”
How we humans have tried to work out this “trick” and how we navigate the seas of information are at the core of my colleagues’ work in this book. Hawamdeh, Kim, and Wang bring together an integrated set of writings that provide a significant foundation for understanding the history and interconnections of myriad threads making up the web of information and knowledge professions. Some of these threads are very long. In the Library of Alexandria over 2000 years ago, the poet Callimachus devised a complex classification scheme for navigating the hundreds of thousands of documents, the fundamentals of which do not look particularly different from modern day classification schemes. Some of the threads are not so long, being devised in the modern technological era. Digital environments yield new ways of utilizing documents, from new forms of analysis to new forms of delivery. Complex knowledge sets are required in the different parts of the web of information and knowledge professions—different technologies, different conceptual bases, different philosophical questions. Yet, they all revolve around making external memories—the paper books, vinyl albums, digital media—available for use.
As we address new questions of storage, access, misinformation and disinformation, public knowledge, and knowledge in the public, we will be well-served by an understanding of how all the threads of the information and knowledge professions are woven together, how they inform one another, and how, together, they make functional the entirety of human external memory—what information philosopher Patrick Wilson termed “our most important cultural object.”
The Foundations of the Information and Knowledge Professions book flows from the Library of Ashurbanipal and the Library of Alexandria through contemporary libraries and digital technological platforms to examination of the impact of technology into the knowledge economy and then into digital content management on into issues of privacy and security through social issues of diversity, equity and inclusion and then into the foundations of a profession. The flow moves the reader smoothly from topic to topic with discussion questions along the way to enable contemplation.
Hawamdeh, Kim, and Wang have taken a holistic approach to dealing with a topic that is constantly changing and expanding. Drawing from their experience teaching graduate students, they have covered foundational topics in the field including the history and evolution of the information profession, Internet and the digital transformation, technology innovation, the knowledge economy, content management, information privacy and security, diversity, equity, inclusion, code of ethics, code of conducts, and information institutions. Topics that are deemed necessary to educate beginning graduate students in the information science field. Readers will develop an integrated sense of the wide range of specialties in the information and knowledge professions and how they inform and support one another.
Brian C. O’Connor, PhD