Information at Will

"Information at will" (a term coined by Houston Chronicle columnist Dwight Silverman in his 7/13/97 column) has revolutionized the very way in which regular Internet users think about information. "The expectations of individuals and families regarding information are changing," said Silverman.

I know that this is true for me. I am able to provide much more information much more quickly to patrons on the topics they need (whether for school, work, or to just satisfy their curiosity) than I could have dreamed of when I stared work as a public library reference librarian over 20 years ago. In earlier days, I was limited to only providing snail mail addresses or telephone numbers (tollfree when available) so that patrons could follow up on their own later and hopefully receive useful information by return snail mail. Now, I have the option of surfing the Web with them right then and printing out (often) the very information that they had needed, right at my reference desk!

It's a whole different paradigm. Information on demand is finally not only possible but an everyday occurrence for those with Internet access.

Another article by Houston Chronicle reporter Greg McDonald in the same 7/13/97 newspaper further points out that the "information superhighway has changed the way Congress works. It has opened the hallowed halls of Capitol Hill to the prying eyes of constituents....Details of legislation, not to mention how each Senate and House member voted on a particular issue, can now be obtained in minutes. Constituents can even email or chat live with members who have personal home pages. No more waiting or those town hall meetings or for a written response that can take weeks."

The concept of "open government" takes on a whole new meaning in the Information Age. With C-Span, ordinary citizens could finally observe Congressmen making speeches on the floor of the House real-time. With the Internet, the same ordinary citizens can finally keep tabs on what Congress is up to in real time!

Next segment *Can Privacy Survive in the Cyber-Age?*

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Last Modified: 11/13/99