In a previous post for Information Space, I referenced a quote by the legendary architect, Louis Kahn. (You can read that post here.) I have been mulling over another quote by Kahn, which I will share with you – a quote I think with special pertinence to all of the students of the iSchool:

Man can work in seclusion, but, you know, when you have an idea, if you’re a really good person, you just can’t help telling that idea to somebody else. You want to share it immediately, and you don’t want to hide it. In a sense, that’s our nature. If you had stolen that idea, you would be hated for the rest of your life, but to convey it is just an urge which everyone has. You can’t help it. Any one of us, in a sense, is a teacher, because we want to share that idea, and because sharing the idea has another meaning. The other meaning is that you know its validity through sharing the idea. The confirmation by one man with a sensitive feeling of its validity is like getting the approval of a million people. This would not be true if you were dealing with a mathematical problem, but it is true when the problem has to do with aesthetics, with art. If that man is honest, and will tell you what he feels, then you have a tremendous approval, that of feelings which strike the soul.

Kahn, L. I. (1998). Louis I. Kahn: conversations with students. Houston, Texas: Rice University School of Architecture.

Steps to knowledge

Kahn’s quote, beyond being a nice concept, highlights one of the less-discussed (and more abstract) aspects of librarianship and our broader information professions: knowledge dissemination. Though the quote is not explicitly about this aspect, I think it acts as a nice mental platform to think about the sharing of knowledge with others. Many institutions of higher learning are embracing this sharing of knowledge with the creation of institutional repositories. This, and other trends, is reflective of one of the key roles of libraries – the sharing of knowledge. Librarians have filled this role admirably for many centuries, but with the advent of the computer as well as the internet, the creation and sharing of new knowledge is far easier than it was in the past. No longer does information need to be shared in a paper format (book or magazine), it can be shared virtually. Librarians, as well as our fellow information professionals, have an important role to play in the generation, preservation, and dissemination of this information. Librarians do this through metadata generation, reference transactions, preservation, and a whole host of other tasks. Not only are we charged with assisting the creator, we also assist those seeking the information we facilitate the creation of, while respecting the rights of both the creator and user of the information.

What do you do as an information professional to aid in this process? What can we as information professionals do better in knowledge generation and dissemination?