Libraries and the Infrastructure

In today's New York Times article, "I.B.M. Has Tech Answer for Woes of Economy," I.B.M.'s CEO calls for technological investment in overhauling the country's infrastructure. Samuel Palmisano calls for public and private investment in addressing problems with traffic, energy grid efficiency, food distribution and a host of other challenges faced by society today.

I agree with this approach and I think that libraries have a part to play in this, as well. Technology is a powerful tool for problem solving, but not as powerful as technology partnered with efficient information sources--like libraries. This dovetails rather well with what I was trying to say last year about libraries as information producers. We have the information, we just need to do a better job of pushing it.

Libraries are strategically positioned throughout the country to serve as information hubs for large scale information intensive projects. Some may argue that the Internet as it stands right now is sufficient for the job, but a great deal of material is not present on the Internet, including blueprints, community planning documents, community council proceedings, property records, grant proposals, old newspaper records...I know that in our neck of the woods, when someone is looking for archived news, the local paper refers them to the local library.

This information, when used in conjunction with newer technology resources, local telecommunications companies, the support of local businesses, governments, and nonprofit agencies, and a more transparent problem solving approach, should yield more efficient ways of doing things. The community that manages this approach first and best will have a tremendous head start on the rest of us and a powerful draw for new businesses.


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