UoL Library Blog

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Of making many books there is no end

Posted by knockels on 2 September, 2008

I have been looking at a piece in Ariadne on information overload and how to cope with it.  This is timely – I have been having the distinct feeling that I was not managing my time well, and that one meeting in particular seemed to be mostly repetition of a list of Keith’s uncompleted action points from the last meeting.

Sarah Houghton-Jan begins by pointing out that information overload is not a new phenomenon, finding a quote from 1685.   (I may have an older one, used above as a title.  I shall tell you at the end where it is from).  She looks at the effects of information overload (lost working hours, lost profits, and an effect on your IQ apparently greater than that caused by smoking marijuana), and then at the role of information professionals in dealing with this overload.   We, she points out, are trained to evaluate and process information.   Perhaps the challenge is to help our academic colleagues with their information overload while not increasing our own?

There then follows a list of 10 techniques.  The article is open access, so you can read the full details, if you are not too overloaded (!), but they include using RSS to handle the overload, not add to it; ways to deal with “interruptive technology” (including Twitter); and ways to avoid “doing email”.  I have recently switched all my listserv lists to digest, so I only have to read one message for each, which is one thing she mentions.   There are some interesting things to try, and some valid points about separation of work and home (he says, having spent some time each day while on leave checking email!).

The Ariadne article is here.   My title is from the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 12, verse 12.  That verse ends “and much study wearies the body”.   Off to put the kettle on.

One Response to “Of making many books there is no end”

  1. gazjjohnson said

    I always liked the quote from the foreword to The Gentleman’s Magazine issue #1 1731 – “There are today too many newspapers for a gentleman to read, and thus there is a need for a service such as ours that digests the salient news of the time in an ordered way” (or words to that effect, it’s been about 4 years since I last read it!)

    Nothing new, and so long as there’s information there will be a need for something to help filter/order it – be it human, be it inteligent agents.

    And having worked on JISC projects – I have to say I am very strict about the work/home divide! You have to be disciplined otherwise all your time can just flutter away…

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