I am increasingly troubled by strange uses, even abuses, of words such as ‘knowledge’; and am not sure if this is indicative of something bigger going on. (What brilliantly precise language…)

The University Librarian is now also entitled the Vice-Principal for Knowledge Management. The Library has a huge banner proclaiming its identity as the home of ‘Information Services.’ Blackwell’s bookshop down the road now bills itself ‘The Knowledge Retailer.’

That vice-principality is clearly laughable. So why did no-one in the administrative hierarchy realise how Orwellian it sounds? It’s either hilarious or threatening, and neither is a characteristic one wishes to see in the running of a University.

As for ‘Information Services’ – well, one naturally does look to be able to find information in a library. And part of the reason for the name is that Computer Services has its HQ in the same building; and the Library, the Computer boffins and some other media-techno-chaps, who gently coax luddite academics into using all the new whizz-bang thingies in the lecture theatres, have been lumped together for administrative purposes under the umbrella of the ‘Information Services Group.’ Yet I still find it worrying that the ‘Information Services’ label is at least as big as the Library label; and that more and more computers are displacing books. Using the Library is not just about finding information. It is also about coming across information and ideas that you would not have come across had you simply been presented at the start of term with a pile of photocopied articles. It is about browsing the current periodicals and coming across unwieldy folio editions of obscure texts. It’s about finding a book on the shelf next to the book on your reading list, and reading that as well.

Similarly, the things you can buy in Blackwell’s will provide knowledge. But books aren’t just about knowledge…

Funny that the word ‘wisdom’ doesn’t seem to cropping up much in these contexts…