Learning, the act of gaining knowledge, is a craft unto itself. It starts with questions - the what ifs, how abouts, whys, . . . leading from the unknown to the known, through inquiry, experimentation, travel, and of course pure accident.

This is about how it happens in my life.

Creating Value in the Information Continuum

Following serendipity is an intricate exercise. Sometimes it is like a great centripetal force pulling together disparate elements, creating a sense of destiny and fulfillment at the same time.

Either way, there is definitely a recurring theme in how I find, use and think about information. It all comes down to a notion drawn from the world of physics: potential energy.  Translated to the information continuum, it means that any given tidbit of information has at very least some amount of Potential value, and at best yields vast amounts of Actual value when put to use. Put simply, I am drawn to the question of how information and knowledge are valued. 

A few weeks ago a post by Rebecca Jones on Facebook that ultimately took me to this item by Joe Esposito here added to my whirlwind on this topic. She pointed to an item at Infodocket (the new site from Gary Price and Shirl Kennedy) that ultimately tracks back to an entry at Scholarly Kitchen, from the Society for Scholarly Publishing.  I recommend that anyone working in the information continuum, especially those in Libraries, take a few minutes to read the entry. His comments are applicable to all Libraries, not just those in  academia. 

His comments brought to mind an event I attended last year at Concordia in Montreal:  a pre-Congress workshop exploring the topic of social sciences and humanities research/knowledge as a public good.  I jumped at the opportunity. 
My career to that point had made me acutely aware of the value of SSH content through a number of avenues:  
  • I was a frequent user of SSRN in my pursuit of economic, financial services and business oriented academic research; 
  • I saw the invoices from many of our data suppliers and so had a sense of what it costs to ensure access; 
  • I understood the intricate connections between raw market and deals data, internally and externally published research that relies on and integrates that data, the publishers and aggregators who facilitate its dissemination; and
  • appreciated the differences between the wide range of consumers who make use of the end products.  
This was built on my first formal exposure to the subject matter back at U of A in 1998, which was in turn built on an undergrad that incorporated a passion for research with course work in enlightment europe, economics and philosphy.
All of this to say that the workshop was an interesting experience. On the one hand, it was quite exciting to hear about successful initiatives around knowledge mobilization and integrating research with policy and real world outcomes; on the other, I was frustrated by the lack of appreciation (or maybe even awareness!) of the real dollar costs involved, and the scope of intereconnections into the busines world.    

What ever information "wants", what I think it wants most to be valued.  Value is highly contextual.   Insight into context - relationships, causes and effects, barriers, needs, capacities - creates an environment where information can be best used and applied.  

Libraries of all kinds are physical embodiements of this insight.  Libraries create an environment where information flows and Potential becomes Actual.

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