five senses provide you with data on what you see by 6Ag96B



A common term often used to describe the era in which we live is the "Information Age."
In contrast to the Industrial Age that preceded this era, information -rather than natural
resources or capital - has become the strategic resource upon which the economy
revolves, and it is being produced in ever greater quantities with ever greater speed. In
fact, experts believe that the amount of available information doubles every 4-5 years and
that more new information has been generated in the last 30 years than in the previous
5,000. Every day, over one thousand new books are published worldwide, and tens of
thousands of different newspapers, magazines and journals are circulated. At the same
time, the cost of buying or accessing such published information is skyrocketing, clearly
showing the high value society places on quality information.

It should be noted, however, that the fact that more information is available now than at
any other time in human history does not necessarily mean that our lives are easier, or
that we are somehow better off. In fact, people today often experience what has become
known as information anxiety, a state of frustration brought about by all or some of the
following factors:

      feeling overwhelmed with too much information
      feeling frustrated by too little information
      not being able to understand or evaluate the available information
      not knowing for certain if information exists or where to find it
      knowing where to find information, but being unable to access it

Perhaps the worst - but most common - form of information anxiety comes about when a
person is so overwhelmed with information and data that he or she cannot process it in
such a way that it becomes meaningful. An individual can become so discouraged by an
unmanageable glut of information that he or she is ultimately lulled into a state of
numbness, passivity, and indifference. Only when one is able to access, select,
understand, and interpret information productively, toward some valued purpose, does
information becomes knowledge.


What exactly is meant by "information" and where does it come from? One definition is
offered by the American Library Association: "All ideas, facts, and imaginative works of
the mind which have been communicated, recorded, published and/or distributed
formally or informally in any format" (List 1). Under this broad definition, information
is everything that's been created or studied by the human mind and recorded in some
Information comes to you first and foremost through your own direct experience, i.e.
your own five senses provide you with "data" on what you see, hear, taste, etc.
Conversations with friends, teachers, parents, and other people in your social world also
provide you with important types of information. But for information outside of your
immediate experience, you depend on a variety of individuals and institutions in society,
including: scholars, researchers, the news media, non-profit organizations, various kinds
of "think tanks" and research institutes, public policy groups, the courts, government
bodies, international organizations, business, and many others, all with varying degrees
of objectivity and credibility.


From the dawn of civilization, humans have found ways to record, store, and transmit
what they have discovered and created. In fact, human progress would not have been
possible without all of the ingenious ways humans have recorded, transmitted, stored,
retrieved, and used information.

Before the invention of writing, humans depended entirely on the spoken word to record
thoughts and ideas. Known as the oral tradition, this was the process by which culture,
tradition, and historical accounts were passed from generation to generation in stories,
folklore, songs, and poetry. But after writing evolved into the phonetic stage, complete
with symbols and alphabets, it was common for information to be written down.

Scholars believe that humans first wrote their ideas by carving or painting on common
objects they found around them: cave walls, bones, and pieces of bark. Clay tablets and
large pieces of stone were used a bit later, and by 500 BC peoples of Egypt, Greece, and
Rome were writing on papyrus, a substance similar to paper made from a plant that grew
along the Nile River.

Papyrus was gradually replaced by parchment, a substance made from specially treated
animal skins thought to have been invented around 200 BC in what is now modern-day
Turkey. Parchment was widely used for writing until it was replaced in the 1400's by the
introduction of paper in Europe and the invention of the movable type printing press in

The invention of the printing press is a milestone in human history because for the first
time books became available to people outside the upper classes. By the 17th century, the
first newspapers and journals were published in Europe, furthering the opportunities for
the average person to learn about science, politics, and culture. The Industrial Revolution
of the 18th century saw improvements in printing technologies and reductions in the price
of paper, thus initiating the mass marketing of books and journals).

The 19th and 20th centuries saw the development of many new ways to record and store
information other than paper: microfilm, microfiche, phonograph records, audio tape,
film strips, and video tape. Probably the most dramatic advance in recording, storing, and
retrieving information came with the invention in the 1940's of the computer. Although
people continue to produce information in handwritten, typewritten, and printed form, it
can now also be generated in electronic format, i.e. recorded as bits and bytes of
computer data and stored on magnetic tape or computer disk.


When information is recorded and stored, it exists in what is termed a format. Format is
the general physical quality or appearance of an information source. There are three
broad categories of formats: print, audio-visual, and electronic. Libraries have significant
collections of materials in all or some of the three formats. Listed below are the three
broad format categories and specific types of information sources within each category
you should be aware of:


      Books - still one of the most common and user-friendly formats for storing and
       accessing information. Books generally offer a broadly focused, in-depth
       discussion of a topic and can be in one or multiple volumes.
      Periodicals (or Serials) - a term used to describe publications which are issued at
       regular intervals (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly). Therefore,
       "periodicals" generally refer to newspapers, magazines, and journals. Magazines
       offer information geared to the general reader, whereas journals usually offer
       more scholarly analysis and discussion. Periodical articles are used extensively in
       research because they are often the best source of up-to-date information on
       nearly any topic. Unlike books, periodical articles usually offer concise and
       narrowly focused discussions.
      Archives - unpublished and published materials that have special historical value,
       such as the private papers of notable persons or the records of an institution.
       Archival collections are often found in specialized libraries and historical
       societies and often include diaries, original manuscripts, letters, photographs, etc.
      Dissertations - research that is conducted and written in partial fulfillment of the
       requirements for the doctoral degree at a university.
      Theses - research project that is completed in partial fulfillment of the
       requirements of a master's degree.
      Vertical File (or pamphlet file) - consists of pamphlets, brochures, newspaper and
       magazine clippings, pictures, maps, and other material that are not suitable for
       shelving or cataloging with the regular collections. Vertical file materials are
       usually placed in manila folders and stored alphabetically by subjects in filing

Audio-visual materials include audio, video, and microform formats. A-V materials
require special equipment for their use and are usually housed in separate areas of the
library. The types of A-V materials are:

      Audio materials - records, audio-cassettes, CD-ROM, DVD, and reel-to-reel
       tapes. The audio materials in most libraries include musical as well as spoken
      Video materials - microforms, video cassettes, slides, and synchronized slide-
      Microforms- printed materials that are reduced in size by photographic means and
       that can only be read with special readers. There are several types of these
       photographically reduced materials.
           o microfilm is print that is reproduces on a roll of 35 or 16 mm film;
           o microfiche is a flat sheet of film, usually measuring four by six inches on
               which separate pages of text are reproduced:
                      microprint is the reproduction in positive form of a
                      microphotograph. microprint is printed on opaque paper unlike
                      microfilm and microfiche, which are printed or reproduces on film;
                   microcard is a form of microprint, but its reduction is greater.

               Microprints and microcards are no longer being distributed because of the
               difficulty in reproducing them on paper.

      CD-ROM (Compact Disk, Read Only Memory) - plastic disk coated optical disk
       on which information can be stored.
      DVD (Digital Versatile Disk or Digital Video Disk) - similar to CD-ROM, except
       that it holds more information.


Electronic format refers to information recorded, stored, and retrieved using computer

      Online catalog - a computerized list, or database, of books and other materials
       held by a library or group of libraries. Also known as OPAC's (Online Public
       Access Catalogs).
      Online databases - a term used to describe information that is stored in a
       computer and retrieved by other computers through telephone lines and
       communication networks. There are thousands of databases, providing nearly
       every type of information, both bibliographic and full text.
           o Online proprietary databases: only available to paid subscribers.
      Internet - a worldwide network of computer networks that offers access to vast
       amounts of information of varying worth on nearly any topic imaginable.
      E-books (electronic books)- published electronically and available on the Internet.
      E-Journals (electronic journals) - defined broadly as journals or periodicals that
       are available over the Internet. Currently there are thousands of journals and
       magazines available in electronic format and the trend for electronic publishing is
       expected to continue. Some of these are exclusively online; others may have a
       print counterpart.


Finding information on a subject in a carefully planned and executed way is the heart and
soul of the research process. The research process depends on skillful use of the
appropriate access tool(s). An access tool (sometimes called a "finding aid") is a resource
whose sole purpose is to lead you to particular types of information. These tools lead you
to information because they perform the invaluable task of organizing information in a
formal, systematic way. Thus, information becomes accessible. Without information
access tools, the plethora of information that exists on most topics would be a hopelessly
disorganized jumble and carefully planned research would be nearly impossible.

When using an access tool, you will be provided with the specific information you need
in order to find what you're after, usually a book or periodical article. This specific
information is called a bibliographic record and usually consists of author, title, and
publication information. (Bibliographic records are sometimes called bibliographic
citations, bibliographic entries or bibliographic references. Computerized access tools
often refer to records that result from a search simply as hits.) Once you have used an
access tool and come up with a relevant list of citations, you are then ready to find the
actual book or article, whether it be in your library, another library, or available via
computer. In recent years, computerized access tools have begun to offer more and more
full-text (i.e. every word) of magazine and newspaper articles, in addition to the
bibliographic record.

Access tools exist in both print and computerized formats, although before roughly 1980
they existed only in print. Computerized access tools are powerful, flexible tools that are
widely used and this course will focus on them more than print tools. You should be
aware, however, that computerized access tools have two major limitations:

      Lack of standardization - computerized access tools do not all look and act the
       same. It's important to learn the features and capabilities of various systems
      Limited time coverage - many computerized access tools do not provide citations
       for items published before 1980. (The one exception to this rule is the online
       catalog, which normally includes all the items in a library collection no matter
       when it was published.) Therefore, when researching a topic that was in the news
       or primarily written about in magazines or newspapers prior to 1980, the access
       tool may be a printed tool.

Listed below are the three traditional types of information access tools used most
frequently by students and researchers:
      Indexes and abstracts - lists of records organized by subject that describe articles
       published in selected sets of magazines, journals, or newspapers during a
       specified time period. Available in both print and computerized formats. When
       using a computerized index, abstracts (i.e. summaries) and/or the full-text of the
       article often accompany the citation. Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature is an
       example of a general periodical index available in both print and computerized
      Catalogs - a listing of every item (primarily books) held by a library or group of
       libraries. Computerized catalogs known as OPAC's have replaced card catalogs in
       most libraries.
      Bibliographies - available at the end of a book, chapter, or article, they provide a
       list of materials on a certain subject or by a certain author. Bibliographies can also
       appear as separately published books, articles, or Web pages. (Note: Do not
       confuse "bibliography" with "biography." A bibliography is a list of books and
       articles, whereas a biography is the story of a person's life.)

Each of these access tools allows you to look up something within the tool by using what
are called access points. The three most common access points are author, title, and
subject. Computerized access tools offer more access points than print access tools --
allowing you to access records by language or document type, for example -- and it is
important to know which access points are available from the tool you're using.

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