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Information and knowledge for open societies; seven principles for libraries and librarians

Bawden, D. & Robinson, L. (2001). Information and knowledge for open societies; seven principles for libraries and librarians. Paper presented at the Knowledge, Information and Democracy in the Open Society: the Role of the Library and Information Sector (The 9th BOBCATSSS Symposium), 29th - 31st January 2001, Vilnius University, Lithuania.


This presentation examines the role of libraries and information services, in promoting the ideas of ‘open society’ espoused by the philosopher Karl Popper and the philanthropist George Soros. The main part of the presentation examines the role played by provision of knowledge and information, specifically but not exclusively by libraries, in the development of this form of society. The importance of new technology, particularly the Internet, and of critical thinking and of information literacy and digital literacy as complements to technical advances are discussed.

Conclusions are drawn for the role of libraries and librarians, with seven general principles suggested:

• the importance of provision of access to a wide variety of sources without ‘negative’ restriction or censorship

• the need for provision of ‘positive’ guidance on sources, based on open and objective criteria

• a recognition that a ‘free flow of information’ though essential, is not sufficient

• a recognition that provision of factual information, while valuable, is not enough

• a need for a specific concern for the effect of new information and communication technologies, and of the Internet in particular

• the importance of the promotion of critical thinking and digital literacy, both among the library profession and among our patrons

• a need for a more explicit consideration of the ethical values of libraries and librarians than has been the case.

A longer version of this presentation is to be published in Aslib Proceedings during 2001, with the title 'Libraries and open society; Popper, Soros and digital information'.

Publication Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > Z665 Library Science. Information Science
Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > Z719 Libraries (General)
Departments: School of Science & Technology > Computer Science
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