The Organization of Knowledge
Lesson 2

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The Organization of Knowledge

In the process of becoming an educated person, there exists a certain heirarchy in the world of learning. It begins with the gathering of data; continues with the organization and synthesis of information; progresses to harnessing an understanding; and culminates in the evaluation of the worth of learning--wisdom.

Libraries provide access to the tools of learning. Critical thinking and analysis require the active participation of you, the learner. In your process of becoming educated, you rub elbows with collective body of human experience, knowledge, and wisdom.

Becoming Knowledge

In everyday speech, the word 'information' has become a catch-all for what is in reality a more complex progression. Knowing the differences between data, facts, information, and knowledge will ultimately help you decide what kind of sources you need and where along this continuum you can find them.

Data or Facts are the unorganized and unevaluated raw material of observation or thought.

Examples of data include:

  • the number of persons in the U.S. with incomes below the poverty line
  • the daily and weekly high and low temperatures in Mobile
  • the number of boiled crawfish a person can eat in a single setting

Information reflects an organization of data of facts to the point that statements can be made about them, either true or false, coherent or incoherent.

Examples of information include:

the number of persons in the U.S. with incomes below the poverty line increased in the City of Mobile between 1990 and 2000

Knowledge and understanding reflect a still higher level of organization to the point that truth or falsity can be assured by the testing of assertions against experience and other ideas. One comprehends not only patterns and generalizations in information, but also the causes or reasons behind them.

Books and journals collected in the SHC Library represent a slice of the collective body of human experience, knowledge, and wisdom. By using these materials, you participate in the process of becoming educated by contact with the works of the world's profound thinkers, brilliant scientists, and compassionate leaders throughout the whole of human history, in order to cultivate the quest for understanding and the desire for truth.

These works must be organized and classified in order to be accessible to learners.


In order to make information available to people it must be organized in a useful way. The difficulty in organizing information is due to the fact that describing the content of sources is a subjective act. Someone must determine how a specific resource fits within the whole of human knowledge or the knowledge within a specific discipline.

In order to make resources as accessible as possible, librarians try to anticipate the different ways people might search for them. It often proves difficult to focus a person's information request in such a way as to match the request to a book, periodical, web page, or other form of published resource. The next section will begin to address the ways in which libraries are structured to connect the searcher with the library's resources.



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