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Research Guides

Information Literacy & Library Research: Information has Value

Information literacy is the ability to know when information is needed and to be able to identify, locate and evaluate, and then legally and responsibly use and share that information.

Information has Value

When we think about the value of information, the first thing that may come to mind is the cost of textbooks! We know that textbooks cost a lot of money. In this case, a publisher has assigned a monetary value to their textbooks. That value is based in part on the cost to publish, distribute, and advertise the textbook, plus the amount of money that the authors will get paid and the profit the publisher will take. When you do a Google Scholar search and find an article you want to read, you may notice that to access the full-text of the article requires a payment of $20 to $50. This is another example of a publisher assigning a value to information. If you really need the information, and were not a college student with access to free interlibrary loan services, you may have no choice but to pay for the article. These examples represent a monetary value assigned to information by others.

The value of information changes given its context. You may need to purchase a $40 article that you really need for work to help your company finish a big project. You may have been willing to pay $100 for it because it is so important to the project you are working on. On the other hand, you may come across an interesting news item about a fast radio burst coming from a distant star. The news piece links to the full article, but beyond the short news piece, you have no interest in reading any more about this fast radio burst even if the article was free. In this case, the information has little to no value perhaps because you are not an astrophysicist or you are an astrophysicist, but you do not work with fast radio bursts. The information has value to the discipline of astrophysics in general and to the study of fast radio burst specifically, but it does not have much value to you. You learned earlier that authority has a contextual component. The value of information also has a contextual component. What may be worth a lot to you, may not be worth much to another. What was not worth much for you today, may hold great value for you tomorrow or next year.

Context can be very broad - everyone needs to know this. It can be a large discipline like science or literature for which the information is important or even foundational, or you can drill down through increasingly specific sub-disciplines until you arrive at a narrowly focused field of study that will find the most value in the information. Finally, context comes down to you. Do you find the information of value whether it was free or cost $400, whether it is show times for a movie at the local theater or Fergus Hume's use of real places in Melbourne in The Mystery of the Hansom Cab. Ultimately, you decide the value of information.

Free information is not free. Time, money, and effort goes into providing even free information. For example, a researcher spends years researching a phenomenon and months detailing her findings in a paper. There were clearly monetary costs to producing the paper, and perhaps monetary value from the application of the findings. Next, she makes her paper free for all to read and use as they see fit. While the paper costs nothing to purchase, we know that it will have contextual value, and that value may be significant to some and minimal to others. The question is does information have intrinsic value, a value that is inherent, a basic characteristic, natural and essential part of the paper?

Videos on the Value of Information

Information has Value from Northern Kentucky University

Information has Value from Professor Michael Johnson-Cramer