Reducing Information Pollution

Artificial Intelligence, Information Overload, and the Library of the Future

February 22, 2018 | Posted By Nathan Zeldes

Recently I was invited to give a keynote lecture at the XV International Conference on University Libraries in Mexico City last month. The conference was dedicated to the changing role of university libraries, and their place in the United Nations’ “Agenda 2030” program. My lecture, titled “Libraries and Knowledge in the Age of Information Overload”, took a close look at the impact of today’s pervasive state of Information Overload on the academic library, and vice versa.

Preparing this lecture was a fascinating experience for me, as was the knowledge exchange at the conference. Libraries, after all, had served as key vehicles for the dissemination of knowledge since ancient times, yet today far more knowledge than we could ever process is available online. Who needs libraries, then?

The conclusions I reached are that libraries will definitely retain their relevance, but their role is already changing. Rather than maximize access to information, they need to help their users filter knowledge, weeding out the fake and the irrelevant and helping them apply the latest techniques – including those enabled by computer science – to home in on what they really need. And amusingly, one reason students and faculty flock to their university library is to seek refuge from information overload – even when the information is accessible from the outside, the library provides a haven from distractions that is very precious.

You can read my report about all this in an article I published, accessible here.

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