Thursday, October 23, 2008

What to do with information?

Repackage and distribute for others to repackage and distribute for others to repackage and distribute, etc., etc. It's a commodity with a price tag and value added taxes, with distribution systems, with CEOs and worker bees, and it's much, much bigger than Wal-Mart, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and the federal government combined. Information, of course is important in education, but it is by far the biggest component in social services. It is sliced and diced, molded and shaped, digitized and dramatized, sifted, shifted, and sh*tted.

Since I was 5 years old I've been in the information business, and before that I had a sharp eye and was taking it all in without realizing it, analyzing, puzzling and disgorging it to anyone who would listen or look at my drawings (before I could read or write). With nearly 20 years of formal education, and probably fifty required, no-credit workshops, I went on to help other people find and redistribute information--helped them find obscure details for their novels, graduate from college, locate jobs, get tenure and promotion, nail down grants to do research, find a formula for a baby gorilla rejected by its mother, and bake blackbirds in a pie. I even published my own research on agricultural publications and home libraries by examining bits and pieces of other people's research who had done likewise.

In my pursuit to dig out, disgorge and distribute information, I held hands, wiped tears, observed love affairs, translated documents, got blisters on my ear from phone calls, created web pages, compiled bibliographies, nodded off in hundreds of meetings, lectured at conferences, ruined my rotator cuff and placed shaky fingers of the elderly on keyboards. I mopped water from leaking ceilings, tore fingernails changing print cartridges, handed out tissues, woke up sleeping students, and brought blueprints home, all in the name of organizing and distributing information. In thanks for my efforts for information I received a paycheck, benefits, thank you cards, flowers, and the occasional lunch out or box of pastries. In the late summer of 2000 I had five retirement parties. Two years later when the new library I helped design opened, I never even got an invite to the open house.

I'm eight years into retirement and think maybe it was all for nothing. 1) Repackaging of information is a huge industry in itself--but that information when it trickles down to the ordinary person doesn't seem to change lives or matter much. 2) Our ever expanding education system has created a class of people that expects and usually gets more, often by producing something other than information. It has also created yet another class, similarly well educated, who say it isn't fair for people with PhDs or MDs to earn more than social workers or government clerks, as they repackage and distribute information to earn their livings, but never produce anything.

More will follow.

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