Librarians: Future Guides to Big Data

Librarians: Future Guides to Big Data

Governments, industries, businesses, universities, nonprofits, and scientists are all generating gigantic amounts of data at an unprecedented pace. IBM has reported that each day activity on the Internet generates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. It has also been predicted that over the next two years worldwide IP traffic will increase beyond 330 exabytes, an increase representing more than double the output of the two previous years.
The McKinsey Global Institute delivered a report in 2011, which noted that “one exabyte is the equivalent of over 4,000 times the amount of information within the US Library of Congress”. Big data is the new frontier, and it represents a tremendous opportunity for those who know how to deal with it.

The Role of the Librarian

Librarians are information professionals, and they will have an important role to fill in the future of big data. Librarians have the mindset, and the skills to help large organizations of all kinds to make the best use of these massive digital resources. With meticulous organizational skills and a unique ability to sift through large amounts of information, librarians will soon be irreplaceable assets in the analysis and use of big data.

In the Age of Information, Data Is Everything

One important reason for the explosion of information is ubiquitous access to digital devices that make using the Internet cheap, fast, and easy. Billions of people are accessing the web and “contributing to the increasing mass of information,” according to The Economist.
Even as this process continues, the list of available digital resources keeps growing. According to The Economist, the ‘trail of clicks’ left behind by Internet users is becoming an important part of the digital economy. Online shoppers create immense amounts of data each day via search queries, email, browsing, buying, blogging, sharing, tweeting, and texting. These digital footprints are contributing to the massive increase in data just waiting to be explored, analyzed, and organized. When you combine that data with that which is streaming out of the exploding number of networked sensing devices within transportation networks, smart buildings, RFID tags, and healthcare services the mystery behind this data explosion becomes clear.

Enter the Era of Big Data

McKinsey has called Big Data ‘datasets of a size that is beyond the abilities of typical computing tools to collect, manage, and analyze.’ Big data is too fast, too big, and far too unorganized to fit the strictures of ordinary database architectures.
With so much information constantly growing, defying all our efforts to manage it, there is a golden opportunity for librarians to become the champions of the face of this daunting challenge. Librarians possess the skills and the mindset to handle big data and to resist the feeling of being overwhelmed by it. These skills include:

  • Information Curation
  • In-Depth Research
  • Digital Scanning, Preservation
  • Cloud Data Expansion
  • Collaboration, Teaching, and Facilitation

For ages, Librarians have helped everyone from students to PhDs and lawyers locate materials and information. The librarian’s in-depth research capability is more important in the age of big data than it has ever been. Librarians are embracing their new role and discovering new ways to develop and leverage their valuable information discovery and management capabilities.

To learn more about how big data is impacting library and information science, visit the USC Marshall School of Business MMLIS program online.