Practical solutions (Was: Publishers and ebooks)

Posting to NGC4LIB

On 05/12/2011 02:14 AM, john g marr wrote:

On Wed, 11 May 2011, James Weinheimer wrote:

The statement that “none of us can take the time to learn everything to make deeply informed decisions” is a statement of absolute, 100% fact.

Actually, that is a false statement in many ways. Perhaps closer to the truth is the concept that: “Those of us who *chose* to take the time to learn *enough* to make deeply informed decisions may be rewarded with more success and a better reputation for veracity than those who do not.”

Of course, there is no such thing as “absolute, 100% fact” anyway, particularly when one sentence (the original statement as a “loaded remark”) contains 6 imperfectly definable concepts [#…#] interrelated by 7 absolute generalizations [i.e. exaggerations] not even logically subject to verification [*…*].

There is no exaggeration … unless you can demonstrate that [the original statement] is indeed false, but that will be very tough.

1st, a statement does not have be false to be an exaggeration. Exaggeration can be read as emotionally manipulative rather than important for its content (e.g, sometimes it can make people laugh and sometimes it actually stops the brain from thinking, etc.).


When one side of a debate is focusing on practical matters and the other focuses on theory, it is difficult to find common ground. In practice, using critical thinking–although a laudable goal–is highly time consuming and will quickly founder in the ocean of reality. As I mentioned before, if I want to vote for a candidate for office and one of the issues I am concerned about is global warming, I need to know something about it to make a decent vote. But the evidence for global warming is extremely technical and dependent on all kinds of people and complex technology all over the world. Unless you have made it your career to learn what these highly technical issues mean, you are forced to rely on the opinions of those who have made it their career to understand.

I mentioned in my last podcast the standards for water by the EPA These are incomprehensible to me and probably most of us, therefore they are beyond any *practical use* of critical thinking. (Note that I emphasized “practical use”) In fact, they have come under attack lately by experts and they may be changing, hopefully getting better.

When people do a search in a library catalog, they already have had a first-level of selection done for them, although they may not realize it. In a Google search, selection is also done, but algorithmically. So, if we say that critical thinking among individuals is “the” or “a” solution for libraries (I am thinking especially of selection here), we effectively absent expert librarians from the affair since we would not be providing our patrons a service they want, and we are throwing it on their shoulders. Google and its imitators will be more than happy to step into this breach. Thus, it would be a step toward oblivion for libraries. (And I guess I have to state the obvious, that this is all my opinion! But it is also not the opinion of someone who has never worked with any of these issues before but someone who has a certain amount of expertise)

And sorry, but “The statement that “none of us can take the time to learn everything to make deeply informed decisions” is a statement of absolute, 100% fact.” is completely true in a practical sense. We must cooperate and rely on others for help, for information, for advice and many other needs.

Certainly, critical thinking is good and important for individuals, but it *cannot* be seen as any kind of solution for libraries. Insisting on it is a refusal to deal with the problem of people needing help with selection. If critical thinking is to occur, it will take place in the hearts and minds of individuals, but those same persons will nevertheless have no choice but to rely on all kinds of experts for all kinds of needs. This is nothing new, it is nothing bad, it is part of being human, and best put by John Donne in one of his Meditations. (I seem to keep returning to literature)

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as a manor of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.