This year, I’ve really felt the weight of information overload. How about you? The Twitter feed that gets 30 new posts before I’ve finished reading the last 30, the never-empty Google Reader, and my daily battle to beat back my email inbox to fewer than 150 before bedtime, only to find it full again the next day.
And good luck remembering stuff.
I tend to say stuff like, “I read somewhere that there was a study showing that many folks skip the bottom 1/4 of the screen when they read on an e-reader,” and I have no idea where I read it. NO IDEA.
I’m starting to think that Sisyphus had it easy. All he had to do is roll that rock all day. He didn’t even have to read, much less remember, anything he wrote.
Then there’s this survey saying that “information rage” is hitting the workplace because others, like me (and remember, I work in an INFORMATION SCHOOL) are also feeling information overload:
We’re even shifting the focus of one of our required courses to focus on information overload and the work that many disciplines are doing to mediate / counteract / re-balance / change / document it.
Now, Ann Blair, a Harvard researcher, says that maybe information overload isn’t anything new. Maybe it’s historical.
Here she is in the Chronicle of Higher Education:
And here again in a similar article in the Boston Globe:
Both times, Blair points out that librarians, with their controlled vocabulary and consistent organizational methodologies, helped bring order to chaos. They’re long articles but worth a read.
And it has me thinking about how many librarians continue to “show their worth” by showering students, parents, and faculty with an ever-burgeoning set of Web tools. Do you like that browser? We can show you six more! Fond of that online photo editor? We’ve got 20 more just like it!
I wonder if, at times, we put novelty too far ahead on the priority list. Is “one more” always what our students need? I’m not convinced that many of our faculty can handle “one more” with everything else that is on their plate. (Oh my word, has anyone calculated the amount of stress or manhours that Common Core Standards implementation is going to add to teachers’ plates in 44 states in the next 18 months? Does my calculator even go that high?) Or is it that we need to be putting more of our collection development skills to work to narrow the field? To curate the options and abundance and, instead, focus on “best of”?
It strikes me that the librarians I admire most are the ones who commit themselves to finding robust, multi-use tools and then to really helping students move toward having mastery of those tools. They may look at dozens of tools before narrowing in on a handful of amazing workhorses. Tool Of The Week is too stressful for most folks. And the time it takes each time we introduce a new tool to students means they are spending more time with the requisite play time, the “huh, I didn’t know that would happen” time then really digging into learning transferable skills and content..
Perhaps it’s like antique stores. Ever been in the junky ones that have stuff stacked to the rafters? Sure, you might be able to find a deal in there, but in the meantime, you’re worried that if you sneeze, a sideboard will tumble over and konk you on the head. Whereas the finest antique stores put out only the finest items and arrange them artfully, with plenty of space so you can admire each item. (OK, I still worry that I’ll sneeze, but not that I will end up in an ambulance.)
Well, suddenly I am finding myself in need of a Kleenex, so I’ll close this post.