Information Society: The society has created various institutions. These social institutions make a person part of the society. Each institution serves one or few needs of the society. A library is a social institution and it has been created to fulfill all the needs of the society. In the library, the people are exposed to books or a variety of documents that give knowledge, bring to surface one’s latent aesthetic talents, stimulate one’s intellect, inculcate values and learning skills, provide one with recreation and so on. Therefore, of all the institutions formed by society it is the library and its modern cognates that are the most potent in meeting the multifarious needs of different users of modern society. A public library provides free service irrespective of status, age, religion, colour or creed, and sex. It may extend service to the neo literates and even to the physically handicapped people.
A society is composed of people working together to achieve common ends and to satisfy common needs. It is a body of individuals that is outlined by the bounds of functional interdependence, consisting of different characteristics or conditions such as national or cultural identity, social solidarity, etc. It is characterized by patterns of relationships between individuals that share a distinctive culture and institutions.
A society is an economic, social or industrial infrastructure, made up of a varied multitude of individuals who may or may not be from different ethnic groups. Modern society is heading towards an information society in which the central instrument of change, the force and direction of change are knowledge and information.
All information societies, ancient, medieval or modern, have functioned and prospered on the basis of proper utilization of information and knowledge in their various stages of development. The term information society is said to have been coined in Japan for the first time. The two Japanese cognates “Joho Shakai” when normally translated into English means “Information Society”. The American Society for Information Science (ASIS) in 1970 organized its annual meeting around the theme “The information conscious society”, where the concept of information society was explicitly used.
1. Definition: William J. Martin defined information society as “a society in which the quality of life as well as prospects for social change and economic development depends increasingly on information and its exploitation”. In such a society, living standards, patterns of work and leisure, the education system and the market place are all influenced markedly by advances in information and knowledge. This is evidenced by an increasing array of information intensive products and services that communicate through a wide range of media, many of them being electronic in nature.
According to Blaise Cronin, “an information society is one in which labour has been intellectualized, one in which the expression to earn one’s daily bread by the sweat of one’s brow sounds decidedly anachronistic”. Employment in the information sector of the economy is growing fast. Soon, terms such as information worker, knowledge engineer, ideas processor will be as common as weaver, miller, electrician, carpenter, etc.
G. P. Sweeney defined information society as one “in which the creation of economic wealth is based on information and in which key economic activities are enquiring, communicating and deciding” for good or ill. Martin is of the view that “the concept of an information society has now gained a fair degree of acceptance”. As a concept it is certainly viable.
2. Criteria of an Information Society: William J. Martin has noted the following criteria for the development of information society.
a) Technological Criteria: Today’s age is the computer age in which computers and telecommunication are behind every other change in the society. Communication technologies such as teleeducation, teleconferencing, teleshopping, telecommuting, e-government, e-commerce have converted the world into a global village and its impact can be felt at every level of our society.
b) Economic Criteria: This is the age of knowledge in which knowledge capital would predominate over material capital. The internet is fundamentally changing the way the companies operate. The internet is turning the business upside down and inside out. The e-commerce goes far beyond the buying and selling over the internet. The information workers are replacing productive worker as the biggest sector in the economy. Information is turning out as the key economic factor as resource, service, commodity, a source of added value and employment. In the information society most of the information will be cheaper, would occupy less space and can be communicated with greater speed.
c) Social Criteria: In information society, information is the enhancer of the quality of life. The information society will be conscious towards the value of information and its use and will become increasingly centred on information handling, processing, storage and dissemination using micro electronic based technologies. Globally the society has got divided into two parts, i.e information rich society and information poor society.
d) Political Criteria: In information society there would be more interaction between the government and the governed through citizens’ participation by way of electronic polling, their access to public information under the concept of freedom and equality of access to information. There will be better interaction with fellow citizens through wired networks, telephone, teleconferencing, etc. The information superhighway will change the whole world.
e) Cultural Criteria: The information society recognizes the cultural value of information through the promotion of information values in the interest of national or individual development.
In an information society, it is said, a majority of the people will spend their time doing tasks which relate to information, expressing, gathering, storing, retrieving and disseminating it. People in an information society will manipulate information for the purposes of travel, entertainment, instruction, control and so on.