Mark Huppert wrote:
> I hope I don’t upset my colleagues by saying this, but librarians
> are not qualified to ‘find the best articles and research’. I mean
> no disrespect. Say you’re looking for the best in molecular genetics
> and you’re a typical librarian who majored in English poetry or art
> What chance do you have?
> Generally, librarians are experts in the resources, not the content.
> Even with the academic background, unless you are an active researcher
> at the cutting edge, you are out of touch.
> Since each institution will have a different set of resources and
> constraints, librarians will be continue to be needed to give advice in
> this area.
The normal area for librarians to be involved in, in the "Information Literacy" stream (and is one of the major purposes of today’s education), librarians are responsible for some of the parts. The entire process is :
1. Framing the Research Question
2. Accessing Sources
3. Evaluating Sources
4. Evaluating Content
5. Using Information for a Specific Purpose
6. Understanding Issues Affecting the Use of Information;
7. Observing Laws, Regulations, and Institutional Policies
(from the Middle States site http://www.msche.org/publications/devskill050208135642.pdf)
Librarians have been especially involved in 2, 3, 6, 7.
An obvious question is: are faculty/instructors great searchers for information? Do they know what is in each of the databases your institution subscribes to? Do they know how to search each one effectively? Do they know how to search internet resources effectively? If so, how did they learn? Did they take a formal class, read a book, get help from other faculty members or librarians, or just get it by osmosis?
Librarians are experts at searching and finding information. This needs to be stated very clearly. I haven’t yet met a faculty member who understood what was in all of the databases at any institution where I worked. They have their favorites (e.g. JSTOR, Lexis, Proquest) but don’t–and can’t–spend their time discovering what is in these other databases. Still, they probably know their favorites very well. The job of librarians is to know their different databases, their relative weaknesses and strengths, the intricacies of searching each one, and so on Librarians understand authority control, how to find it and how to use it.
Your question of: "Say you’re looking for the best in molecular genetics and you’re a typical librarian who majored in English poetry or art history. What chance do you have?" is answered by: You are a librarian and know how the tools work. Use the tools to their full power. That doesn’t mean that you can do the person’s research for them (but that’s not what librarians do anyway) but you are the expert in how the tools work. Naturally, you may have to seek out other experts who are librarians who can help you too, but this is no different from a physician asking a specialist for help and advice.
One of the problems today is that research shows consistently that the great majority (80%+) of people–even beginning undergraduates and people in high school–believe they are either "very good" or "expert" searchers. Why they believe this is a mystery to me, but it seems to be a fact and is borne out in my own experience as well. This is truly a difficult hurdle for librarians to leap.