Similar to the myth that people only use 10% of their brain, the idea that everything can be found on the internet is repeated by idiots constantly. Yet, to any “thinking” person, this should be immediately dismissed as ludicrous! I come down hard on this myth because oftentimes people will use it as a way to dismiss the importance of libraries and other repositories of information. While it is true that a lot of reference information (basic mathematical formulas, geographical information, metrical conversion rates, etc.) is found relatively easily online, there is a ton of information that is either Not online, or is held within something referred to as the “deep web”. What people fail to see, when they talk about the unlimited scope of online resources is that the internet is a lot like a giant Wikipedia without editing privileges; whatever is there, somebody must have put up. Clearly, this leaves a lot of empty info-space.
Further tainting the infoscape on the ‘net is the reliability of a great deal of pages. Certainly, a person may find some very specific data, but what is to say that this data is correct or accurate? After all, anyone can have a website and put on it whatever they wish. Similar to in the real world, the internet is full of misinformation – and as a future librarian, I see misinformation as a non-information when responding to a query – Google, on the other hand, can’t tell the difference. For me, if it’s on the internet, but wrong, it doesn’t exist. Ditto for all the outdated information still hanging around on the net, popping up on page 1 of a search (would you use a 1996 encyclopedia to look up Pluto? I wouldn’t. Poor Pluto).
It’s understandable that the average user will find their information needs met online. This doesn’t, however, necessarily apply to people who do serious research. Even with access(usually this means being affiliated with an institution that has a subscription) to the “deep web” of databases and other restricted info-repositories, not all academic journals put their articles online. I have found time and time again that I’ve had to dive into microfiche and/or actual periodical rooms to find articles not available online. This also applies to photographs, and other auxiliary data sources(other than text) that is just Not online. The people who subscribe to the thinking that everything is available online are the type of people who see a report on CNN about an exciting scientific study with various revolutionary conclusions, but will never actually go look up the study to see whether the news is misinterpreting or blowing the findings out of proportion, as often happens. For serious research, the internet is a good supplement; if one has access to the “deep web”(luckily I do through UCLA), a good many databases can be used without getting off the proverbial bum – still if one thinks that they’ll get the complete infoscape of a topic online, even using advanced search methods, that person is likely to be disappointed.
And just to nail the point home, here is some information NOT available online: the lyrics to “Jones Comin’ Down” by the Last Poets, an authoritative(read: not in a blog post) biography of well-known feminist poet Alta (Gerrey) (I’ve found information about her, but not much – though there is a lengthy interview), copyrighted books, old newspapers, most of my poetry, blueprints of most buildings (how Do they do that in movies?), the cure for the common cold.