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Thursday, February 24, 2011



I would like to congratulate the Executive Board of the Philippine Group of Law Librarians ably chaired by Madam Milagros Santos- Ong  its President, for gathering this dedicated group of Law Librarians in this  seminar on breaking the technological barriers in the  library with particular reference to use and access to information. It is an honor  to be with you this morning.  As I read your theme I am a bit worried about what to say to you. Librarians have always been my tormentors during my school days. I used to spend a great deal of time in the university library where I often stood out as  one of the noisiest in the bunch of young upstarts striving for legal education. I recall pretty well the familiar bell of Prof. Myrna Feliciano then the Chief Librarian of the U.P. Law  Center, which she would viciously bang  to subdue our noisy arguments. She would even go to the extent of chasing us out of the library. Those were the days when research was arduous, difficult and taxing. Those were the days of jockeying for index cards, and getting to the library before it opened first hour in the morning in order to be rewarded with the only volume of the book which others covet. 

Times have changed. Your theme is indeed appropriate. But as to why you chose Bacolod City as the venue of your seminar workshop  I could only guess that this has nothing to do with the skills of our local librarians, but perhaps more on their hospitality.

The dawn of the Electronic Age has to a large extent changed the feature of the  libraries all over the world. Library technology could now move  and extend  the entire library repository beyond its four walls via computer networks to put information resources into the hands of  the reader and researcher. With the availability of  search engines via the internet,  it seems that the best place to acquire  information may no longer be within the silent walls of the traditional library and it seems that the stern librarians whom we dread are bound to disappear. But I believe that the Librarian of old has not been discarded. The Librarian has not been discarded in the garbage bin much less  deleted. He or she has evolved, as a new specialist.

The Librarian might be referred to now  as a Knowledge Management Technologist.   The management of information has long been regarded as the domain of librarians and libraries. Librarians and information professionals are trained to be experts in information searching, selecting, acquiring, organizing, preserving, repackaging, disseminating, and serving. However, professionals in information technology and systems have also regarded information management as their domain because of the recent advances in information technology and systems which drive and support information management.

One of the clearest evidences of this is that the positions of “Chief Information Officer” (CIO) in many organizations are generally held by information technologists instead of librarians. In fact, most of the work of CIOs has to do with developing and managing the IT infrastructure and systems, not the managing of information per se.

With the growing interest in knowledge management, many questions have been raised in the minds of librarians regarding: the difference between information and knowledge; between information management and knowledge management; who should be in charge of information and knowledge management; would librarians and information professionals with appropriate education and training in library and information science be most suitable for the position of “Chief Knowledge Officer” (CKO) in their organizations; and what libraries can do in implementing knowledge management.

What then would be the role of the Librarian in the present age of Information Technology.  Would the Librarian be akin to a data bank who would simply churn out data or information at one’s bidding? Or would the Librarian be one who could organize,  systematize, and synthesize data or information, expressed in a coherent or rational idea.

There is a school of thought which espouses the view that the modern day Librarian is  the specialist in “knowledge management” distinct from the so called IT specialist. Using this as our premise there is a need to distinguish knowledge from information.   Daniel Bell defines knowledge as “a set of organized statements of facts or ideas, presenting a reasoned judgment or an experimental result, which is transmitted to others through some communication medium in some systematic form.” On the other hand,  Marc Porat defines  information as “data that has been organized and communicated.”

Both concepts appear interrelated since each is an element of the other.  Stephen Abram has an interesting way of explaining the concepts of knowledge and information. He sees the process for knowledge creation as starting out with the data and the data transforms into information and information transforms into knowledge. He concludes that knowledge drives and underpins behaviour and decision making. 

According to  Jay Liebowitz, “ knowledge management, therefore, deals with creating, securing, capturing, coordinating, combining, retrieving, and distributing knowledge. The idea is to create a knowledge sharing environment whereby sharing knowledge is power as opposed to the old adage that, simply, says knowledge is power.”

In this digital age, libraries should  undergo radical transformation. Libraries as  learning  centers, be they public, private, academic and research libraries, should expand the access to knowledge and not simply dish out chaotic data and information. This is a challenge to our librarians.  The rise of digitized information is an opportunity to elevate the role of librarian and leads to the emergence of a new breed of librarian. The Cyberspace Librarian. In this exploding universe of  information our librarians face enormous challenges.

Librarians must become proficient in the use of the new technologies to promote them and instruct library users students, teachers, researchers and professionals, in their use. The librarian acts as a resource person and even as an authoritative consultant in the process of research. 

The familiarization with new gadgets and methodology of locating information for vast majority of population requires guides and librarians can easily fit into this role with training. The leveraging of the available information to suit the needs of the clientele is also best done by the librarians. The task of distilling information from a universe of data is better addressed by the librarian. The traditional, time-honored methods of cataloging and classification should be enhanced to handle the increasing number of books, journals, publications and documents, and deal with the almost infinite amount of digital information in large electronic databases and on the Internet. The information explosion has created far more information than one school library could possibly contain. The librarian is responsible for locating, acquiring, disseminating and tracking information resources of many types. This job might include database searching, interlibrary loans, monitoring Internet newsgroups, or maintenance of a computerized library information system.

Let me close by relating to you a lament by one observer who said that   the   Internet and World Wide Web is completely chaotic and people waste much time in fruitless search for the precise information they need. The rapid growth of unstructured data on the Internet and World Wide Web has created significant problems related to the efficiency and accuracy of information retrieval. Intelligent agents in the person of the Librarian is truly the professional capable of untangling this mess.

I am positive that your three days seminar workshop would be fruitful and illuminating.

Welcome and again congratulations to all of you.

God Bless You.

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