Re: Great article

Posting to Autocat

On Fri, Aug 23, 2013 at 12:30 AM, Daniel CannCasciato

I thought his comparison of results from a library database search and doing the same focused search in a NYTimes search site was very misleading – – however it is something I emphasize to students regarding information literacy (and yes, as Joel Hahn’s response indicated, I support the idea of making students learn something): use the proper tool. Don’t go to Costco for specialized [automotive parts, cooking gear or ingredients, etc.]. Don’t go to the grocery store to find musical instruments or sheet music. Don’t go to a general database if something more specific to your topic is available – – except know that the more general database might just bring you results that are useful and help expand your research. (It always helps to know just how far along they are in the process and how much material they need.)

These comments are interesting. Here is a real-life example where a passionate fan of the library and a highly sophisticated searcher, who isn’t really complaining but makes an observation that things just are not working for herself and her students:
“She wants her students to spend less time searching and more time reading. And this isn’t a matter of grooming proficient searchers, but rather, a comment on how much time it takes to track down sources. The conflict that she seems to be having is—is it worth it to focus so much on searching when there is a greater need on actually doing something with the items?”
Maybe the example he gives of the NYTimes is misleading–so what? It is still something that our users do and see every day with their own eyes. He says:
“But in all honesty, these two posts are not about databases at all. It is simply about a situation in which a faculty member (library user) asks: this tool doesn’t work for my needs, what else can we do? This isn’t really about to-search-or-not-to search. It’s about the fact that faculty (not just students) are getting fed up with the search tools that we provide and are seeking new solutions.”
I also want people to learn but I also know that 99% of everything I learned in all the schools I ever went to I forgot pretty quickly, that is, unless I used it on a pretty regular basis. I am sure that I by my senior year, I had forgotten most of everything I had learned as a freshman, and let’s forget about what I remember from those times today. I have also taught quite a few information literacy workshops to students and faculty, and I wonder how many of those people actually wind up doing all that time-consuming stuff I have told them: look up all the authors, the publishers; don’t just believe anything you read in Wikipedia… If they really did everything I told them to do, they wouldn’t have time for anything else–especially the students. I have also wondered about the people who lead the information literacy courses: do they really practice what they preach? I confess I don’t always look up all the authors to find out if they are “genuine” or hucksters, and I have been known to read a page from Wikipedia and actually believe it.

I can remember the days when looking for information meant really using card catalogs, lots of printed book catalogs, printed journal indexes (what a pain that was!), working from bibliographies in back of books, while running back and forth among all of them constantly, using typewriters and physically erasing mistakes  when “copy” meant writing out everything by hand and “paste” meant that stuff in a jar. There was no automatic citation software… I confess that I barely knew what I was doing but I do not look back on those days with nostalgia–they were a total pain in the you-know-what–it wasn’t one bit better. And yet there is a part of me that reflects on those times, and I think: THREE CLICKS?! That’s all we can expect today??

The answer is: yes. Things have changed that much, for better or worse. If I had to do research as I did back then, I may do it because I had to, but I would constantly be thoroughly angry because I would know there were better ways. The current generation would choose not to do it at all, but go somewhere else. As the author said, “This isn’t really about to-search-or-not-to search. It’s about the fact that faculty (not just students) are getting fed up with the search tools that we provide and are seeking new solutions.”

They will find those solutions–if not from us, then from somebody else.