1 Data, Information, and Knowledge

Before we explore the functions, services, and benefits of libraries and library science, we need to ensure that we are all working with the same definitions of key words. In other professions, the words “knowledge,” “data” and “information” are used interchangeably. However, in library science they are three related but distinct things. Patrons (and librarians) peruse the information provided by interpretations of data in order to receive and retain knowledge. They may also peruse data (especially in academic, medical, or scientific libraries), but the main stored resource in libraries is information.

Data is the building blocks of all items contained in a library. It is the bare facts of reality, the strategically collected information that has been recorded in a standardized, or at least understandable, way. There are two types of data. Quantitative data is data that has been recorded as an amount of something. For example, four seconds or eighteen ounces.

"We had the data" by fiona.walsh2015 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
“We had the data” by fiona.walsh2015 is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/?ref=openverse.

Qualitative data, on the other hand, is something that is not communicated through the use of numbers. This type of data is recorded through words or other media that cannot be assigned numbers. In order to ensure that qualitative data is collected consistently and accurately, researchers will use controlled vocabularies to record these qualities or at least approximate them. Then, the quantitative data of the use of these standardized vocabularies can be analyzed. The use of both of these types of data varies from field to field, but all data is in one of these two forms.

Information is produced when a researcher or another person takes the data obtained by research and analyzes and interprets it. This is always done in qualitative form. Examples of sources of data-derived information include the text of articles in academic journals, nonfiction books, and professional websites. Information takes data and inputs it into a particular narrative. Ideally, the narrative of information is free from bias. However, bias inevitably creeps into data analysis despite researchers’ and interpreters’ best efforts. Thus, Information Literacy is a vital skill for librarians and their patrons to possess.

Knowledge is obtained when readers internalize the information and data presented to them by items in the library collections. Readers internalize all of the information present in the items. Hopefully, they will retain the information. Internalization of information and action upon it as a demonstration of knowledge has been regarded as the highest form of intellectual achievement by many cultures. For example, in Buddhism the highest form of knowledge was demonstrated by becoming a Bodhisattva and living according to the precepts of the Buddha’s sutras, which were learned through reading and discussion.

Bodhisattvas demonstrated the depth of their knowledge by living according to the precepts of Buddhist sutras.
The Bodhisattvas of the Ten Stages in Attaining the Most Perfect Knowledge was painted in 1454 in China. This digital reproduction was provided by the Cleveland Museum of Art. It is licensed under the CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain License.

The chief goal of librarians is to help their patrons accurately interpret data and internalize correct and authoritative information so they can have correct knowledge and act accordingly. The correct application of knowledge is called wisdom, and is considered by some to be the fourth and highest tier of understanding. However, this classification is somewhat arbitrary and will therefore be considered part of the knowledge aspect of understanding.

Storing and Accessing Data, Information, and Knowledge

Libraries play a crucial role in organizing, preserving and providing access to data, information and knowledge. One of the most important aspects of this is the use of a well-defined Organization Schema, which helps to classify and categorize the materials in a logical and meaningful way.

Classification systems such as the Dewey Decimal Classification System or the Library of Congress Classification System are commonly used to organize and arrange materials on library shelves. This allows patrons to quickly and easily locate the materials they need by browsing through a well-defined and consistent schema.

Another important aspect of library data management is Preservation. Libraries take great care to preserve their collections for future generations by using techniques such as temperature and humidity control, light management, and digitization. This helps to ensure that the materials will be available for use long into the future.

Metadata is also a key component of library data management. Metadata is data that describes other data, and it plays a critical role in providing information about the materials in a library’s collection. This can include information such as the title, author, publication date, and subject matter. Metadata is also used to provide information about the physical characteristics of a record, such as its format, size, and condition.

Finally, libraries use one Record for each of its items to keep track of the materials in their collections. This can include information such as the title, author, publication date, and subject matter. Additionally, libraries use records to keep track of patron borrowing and to keep track of the location of materials within the library.

The purpose of using this wide range of tools is to ensure that patrons can easily find the precise information and items they are looking for. Additionally, they can also browse and find a wide range of information resources if they are looking for multiple resources on a particular subject.



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Introduction to Library and Information Science Copyright © 2023 by College of Southern Idaho is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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