Answered By: Mary Francis
Last Updated: May 12, 2015     Views: 23

Thank you for your question. It touches on a couple of topics related to libraries and those using the resources they provide.

The first is when you asked how information is “updated into the library.” That addresses the physical material that we keep in the library including books. In order to maintain quality materials in the collection, libraries will weed or withdraw books. This can sometimes cause furor in the news as librarians are “throwing away” books. Actually, there are set processes on when a book should be removed from the collection. Often books are removed due to the fact that as you noted, facts and approaches to topics change. Especially as our patrons are students and faculty it is critical that the material we provide are academically relevant. Simple example, we recently removed one book on jobs in audio production from the 1980s. The information inside would not be useful.

This idea of withdrawing books also touches on the idea that there are different kinds of libraries. Say in an elementary school library it would be very important to have materials that do not include Pluto as a planet. However, perhaps in a University Library with a major on Astronomy and its history it would make sense to have older texts that discuss Pluto as a planet as this would be a resource for those who are looking at how the study of astronomy has changed over the years. This understanding of the mission of the library and what it is there for is important in considering what materials it will purchase and keep.

Because libraries are not able to completely remove resources that address ideas and facts that change (nor would they want to.) A second big idea that this touches upon is that as a researcher or someone using information it is so critical to evaluate the resources you are using. One of the things that must be evaluated is the currency of the information. So if I am interested in a field where changes occur rapidly, I will want more current information than a field where little changes. Another evaluation criteria that this addresses is reliability. Is the information you find agreed upon by people in the field? This requires looking at more than just one resource which is a flaw of some beginning researchers.

The final idea this question touches upon is the concept that when you are doing research on a topic it requires you to look more deeply into the topic than just the surface content. It is important to get an idea of what has been learned about the topic, what professionals are currently focusing on, and considerations of where it will go in the future. I know this may seem pretty deep, but this is a good place to start toward the ability to be truly information literate and be able to question and use information.