#056 From Library and Information Science to Knowledge Science

Lecturer OHBA Ichiro, Faculty of Library, Information and Media Science

In the past, the library was always a place for gathering knowledge and information. But recording media have switched from paper to digital data, and information far exceeding the capacity of a library is now available on computer networks. However, this does not mean that libraries and the staff who work at them have become unnecessary. Prof. Ohba is pursuing new approaches to the functions that libraries perform, such as systems for accessing needed information, and staff training to support such systems.

The ideas in a person's mind are first saved and shared as knowledge/information when they are recorded externally in some form, such as text or images. In the distant past, writing and other information were inscribed on cave walls and clay tablets, but as times have changed so have information media?evolving from printed matter, to digital data, including audio and movies. Beyond that, there has been a complete transformation of methods of using information due to the development of networks. In every era, information sharing has been the foundation of creating new knowledge. The accumulation of information media is thus a knowledge resource for social development. Prof. Ohba is working on sharing of information resources and staff training for that purpose, as a way of addressing the dynamically transforming nature of information media.

Previously, the library shared information through the medium of printed matter. Furthermore, the term "library and information science" has been used to refer to the field concerned with the exchange of information centered around the library system. However, as described above, libraries have undergone tremendous changes in the roles they play and the way they share information. The library is more than just a building, and the field of knowledge and information science arose due to the need to conduct interdisciplinary research on the shared use of information and knowledge. Information is a field which can be approached not only from mathematics and physics, but also from philosophy, law and many other perspectives. There, the existing boundary between the humanities and the sciences has no meaning. Knowledge and information science is a state-of-the-art discipline which aims to achieve a true fusion between the domains of humanities and sciences.

In recent years, various new efforts have been made regarding the management of public libraries, such as attempts to outsource management to the private sector. The majority of libraries are operated with public funds, and people can use them free of charge. Some people think that the "management" concept isn't suited to nonprofit facilities, but precisely because public funds are used, there is a need for solid management strategies and management to provide the needed functions at the maximal level. The basic service provided by the library is to support the activities of users by facilitating access to references containing knowledge and information. The largest expense of a library is in gathering materials, i.e., book purchases and contracts for the use of databases. This pertains to the core mission of a library, and is difficult to reduce. The strain of any cost-cutting will resurface as increased labor costs. The specialized knowledge and skills of librarians will be needed more than before. Even when one searches for information on the Internet, searching cannot be done accurately and efficiently if one does not know the proper keywords. Also, information literacy is necessary for judging the reliability of information. It is crucial for a library to have reference services for consulting on items being sought out, and for providing support to solve problems. Some public libraries have appeared which focus on knowledge support for entrepreneurs. Whether in selecting books or in reference services, it is important?in order to provide appropriate services?to understand the fundamentals of a wide range of fields while maintaining a grasp of rapidly changing information media. To help students of the College of Knowledge and Library Sciences (successor to the University of Library and Information Science) master this sort of literacy, Prof. Ohba is working to develop the learning environment for students by, for example, organizing materials at various levels in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences.

Prof. Ohba first encountered the library at the elementary school he attended in Kumamoto. His school was unusual in having two libraries with holdings not only of paper books, but also audio materials of educational programs and other content on cassette tape. Naturally, he loved to read books, but more than that, he was interested in the library as a place where people can access all sorts of materials. Since that time, there have been tremendous changes both in the circumstances surrounding libraries and the technology of information media. Moreover, those changes will surely continue going forward. For library researchers, it's thrilling to be alive at such a dramatic time, and Prof. Ohba is passionate about training human resources to carry on the next generation of library work.

A bookcase with volumes Prof. Ohba himself selected to cultivate the basic academic abilities of students

Prof. Ohba glides between the bookshelves, fluidly explaining his work

Article by Science Communicator at the Office of Public Relations

Celebrating the 151st 50th Anniversary of the University of Tsukuba
Celebrating the 151st 50th Anniversary of the University of Tsukuba