Sunday, May 8, 2011

Librarians do what search engines can't

Flo & Friends

As frustrated as I get with library budget cuts all around us, we are seeing a more and more vocal core of support in communities across the country. The following excerpt appeared in an editorial in the Houston Chronicle on March 31. If only the decision makers and majority of population of communities and schools realized what this editor defines.

The infoverse has exploded. Data still comes in book form - and in a bazillion other forms as well: among them, databases, online journals, architectural plans, maps, photos, microprints, CDs, DVDs, podcasts, posters, manuscripts, Tweets, [blogs,] musical scores, scripts, magazines, software and web sites.

Librarians make it possible to navigate the wilderness.

Handed a difficult question, a good librarian happily hacks through the data jungle, sorting the good info from the bad, and procuring exactly the answer you wanted.

But great librarians do something even better: They help you ask a sharper question, then find the answer you didn't know you needed.

Maybe printed books will largely disappear in the next decade. Even so, we'll still need libraries - because we'll need librarians.

Thu 03/31/2011 Houston Chronicle, Section B, Page 8, 3 STAR Edition

The amazing power of the reference interview! Define a question to improve the outcome. What a concept.

Google's most recent Webinar, May 4, 2011 "Writing successful search queries," describes "predictive searching" and describes, the "number one rule of search engines [is to] search for you answer, not your question." This is good start, and as a HUGE supporter of all that is Google, will benefit users who stumble upon and understand this concept, but for now, and judging by the interactions I have at work and throughout my daily life and the media I interact with, the vast majority of our population can still benefit from the expertise that librarians can provide.

I just got back from SLMS conference in Buffalo, NY. I hope to post more here on that later but suffice it to say, conferences are sooo motivational and empowering. This one offered so much info, it did not help my focus on one aspect or another but filled my brain with ideas for teaching, learning, improving and advocating.