Library and Information Network
During the last decade, the importance of computer networks and telecommunications has grown tremendously.' Computers can now communicate with each other and with a range 'of peripheral devices, over distances with increasing speed and reliability. Technological advances in communication have ushered in a new era not only of computer power but of access to information services at least in those parts of the world that have been able to develop extensive and reliable telephone networks. The transmission over the telephone network, not only of voice but more recently also of text and simple illustration through telefacsimile, laid the foundations for this age in which communications is taken for granted in developed countries.
Computer assisted information networks remove the barriers of space and time which previously limited the communicative abilities of individuals. The developing global interconnectivity of networks can bring people of like interests together, who would otherwise never meet because of separated geographical locations. At the organisation level, local networking supports the ability of small teams to work together directly through a computer, application. Organisations and governments are now able to perceive information and its exchange as a resource to support innovation and creativity.
Information professionals have the potential to play an important role in these developments. For example, the skills and understanding of the information professionals are particularly appropriate to the task of designing and supporting communications systems which facilitate them to interface between information and user. It may be mentioned here that the developments taking place in networking are having significant impact on the traditional activities of librarians and information scientists, encouraging change in the pattern of existing information services and making possible new potentialities. For instance, the forms in which information is acquired, stored, manipulated and disseminated will be compelled to change as networked computing and information usage becomes more common in libraries and information centres.
'Networking' is a somewhat complex term and requires to be viewed from a variety of perspectives in order to gain correct insight into its various benefits. The technical development of computer networking is concerned with the exchange of data rather than information. The concern of information professional is more with the transfer of information. This is certainly a challenging area for the effective use of networks for information systems. This Unit discusses information networking applications, with an emphasis on those issues important for librarians and information professionals.