At work this morning I had to do research on “indigenous knowledge in libraries” and one of the articles I found had a famous T.S. Eliot quote on the first page that I hadn’t seen for a long time, even though it should be engraved over the door of every library science school:

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information
— Choruses from “The Rock” 1934

I don’t mean to imply a Dante-esque “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here” type of thing… I mean that this is something we, as information professionals, should be constantly thinking about. More of a “Don’t lose sight of the forest in looking at the trees” kind of thing. Or do you think we’re doing the opposite? We forget about the trees and only see the forest? Whatever happens, I think a lot gets lost in translation (okay, that’s the last cliche for this post).

Example: for a class this term I created a survey for a neighborhood of international graduate students. On the survey, we basically just wanted to know how the students found information about the local community. We gave several options for answers (I hate giving options for answers, but that’s what all survey guides suggest doing, unfortunately) such as “neighbors, coworkers, friends, newspaper, internet” … after this assignment was done, I learned that we left out the biggest information source of all — the city bus. Go figure. If I had simply talked with a few more of the students from this neighborhood, I would probably have known this, but I lost that bit of wisdom in looking only at the information we were trying to collect. Lesson noted.