RE: Cablegate from Wikileaks: a case study

Posting to NGC4LIB

Laval Hunsucker wrote:

As you already sort of implied, what *in fact* counts is not people’s need for help ( whatever that may mean ), but their _perception_ of need for help — or, more accurately, their perception of the likely benefits of seeking help ( i.e., from “us”, as you put it ) [ and, one would hope, of also getting real help from “us” ], weighed against their perception of the cost ( effort, time, perhaps expense, perhaps discomfiture ) of seeking such help. And all of this contingent each time on the situation, motivation and objectives, and affective circumstances prevailing in each particular case. N’est-ce pas ?

No. I showed a very specific question (not only from a single person) about a very specific resource (i.e. Wikileaks) of current importance, to determine some very specific codes that they could not understand (e.g. PTER, PGOV, etc.) and they were not able to find the answers. This was information that *they believed* could help them. I am sure they are not the only ones. I illustrated the methods that, based on my experience, expertise and perseverence, I was able to answer these questions. I tried to point out that many librarians could do the same thing I could, and some experts in the area could have been much more efficient answering the question than I was. The only place where I suggested that I was “better” than the people who asked me (and I apologize for the blatant promotion of such a thing as a librarians expertise, but I am one who believes in such a thing as “expertise”) was that I believe–based not only on this example–that the untrained person could not find the answer to such a question.

After reading several of your posts, I get the impression that you do not really believe that librarians have any type of expertise, or at least, a type of expertise that people want. Of course I may be incorrect in this assumption, but could you elaborate on the role of the librarian/expert in information/whatever you prefer to call it? For example, in the current reference question concerning Wikileaks, do you believe that people actually can find the answers themselves using whatever tools they may have–in this case, only Google, *not* Google Scholar, *not* a catalog, *not* any other tool that I could easily find, and yet, using the very strange tool called Google (which didn’t exist 15 years ago) I was able to do it, but it was anything but easy. I found it amazing.

How does a novice, without any help, discover that the answer they need is in the Foreign Affairs Handbook? Certainly, you could ask an expert in U.S. government information, but I am not, and yet I answered the question. I am far from unique. I am not interested in keeping this information all to myself as a guild-type of “professional secret”.

When someone has problems finding something, who are they supposed to ask for help? Just trust Google? Or ask… whom? Their parents or friends? Or do without?

This sort of question and answer session happens thousands of times each day in libraries around the world.