Do universities need libraries? Isn’t Google free?


On Friday I gave a lunchtime talk to the UC Berkeley Foundation (about 100 people — mostly alumni donors — who manage and lead fundraising on behalf of the campus). I offered an historical framing of just how significant the digital information revolution is going to be (so much more so than we’ve already seen), and why that means we need information professionals more than ever.

I posted the slides to SlideShare, but I tend to use just a few slides to illustrate my points while talking, so I posted them with the script included.

Here is the abstract:

The Gutenberg revolution was an enabler and shaper of the Protestant Reformation, the Renaissance, and the Scientific Revolution. It did so through a small, simple technological advance: merely a reduction in cost and increase in accuracy for information reproduction. But from that modest technological change, one-to-many communication became practical.

The digital revolution accomplished the same feat, only more so: the incremental cost of information reproduction is now about zero; reproduction accuracy is about perfect. And a new impact: information distribution is instant. These are even greater transformations than the Gutenberg press, which enabled and shaped the Protestant Revolution, the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution. The impacts on civilization of the digital revolution over the coming decades and centuries will be even greater.

Though information is now abundant, finding, evaluating, making sense of and using good information is harder. In the Information Age, we need librarians and other information professionals more than ever.