Tag Archives: information retrieval

library time

There’s not enough of it:

Academic librarians are eager to offer sessions for students on what we call “research education.” But the mistaken assumption that students don’t need it means that many professors don’t ask us to meet with their students, or even respond to our enthusiastic offers to lead such sessions. Students don’t need to be taught anything about working online, because they were practically born digital, right?

Research education is not tools education. Research education involves getting students to understand how information is organized physically in libraries, as well as electronically in library catalogs and in powerful, sometimes highly specialized commercial databases. It means teaching students to search effectively online to identify the most relevant and highest-quality books, articles, microform sets, databases, even free Web resources.

Knowing how to Tweet doesn’t equate to knowing the LexisNexis interface.

wikipedia & primary sources

You know the state of information literacy is bad when journalists are copying and pasting quotes that are in fact hoaxes:

When Dublin university student Shane Fitzgerald posted a poetic but phony quote on Wikipedia, he said he was testing how our globalized, increasingly Internet-dependent media was upholding accuracy and accountability in an age of instant news.

“The moral of this story is not that journalists should avoid Wikipedia, but that they shouldn’t use information they find there if it can’t be traced back to a reliable primary source,” said the readers’ editor at the Guardian, Siobhain Butterworth, in the May 4 column that revealed Fitzgerald as the quote author.

Oh my.

breaking: fainting goat disease detected in student researchers

Apparently this is now is an epidemic on college and university campuses affecting students’ ability to take notes and start their research.  A terrible affliction.  Some intrepid researchers, non-student researchers mind you who must be resistant to this virulent strain, have found some striking…findings.  Consider the following preliminary symptoms (among several) and decide whether or not they may be related:

  • Students used words such as “angst”, “dread”, “anxious”, “stressed”, “disgusted”, “confused” and “overwhelmed” as the one word that describes their reaction to receiving a research assignment.
  • The majority of the students we intereviewed did not start on an assignment – thinking about it, researching or writing – until two or three days before it was due.

Mutually exclusive?  My thoughts exactly. More to the point, I gleaned this fascinating grain of psycholuminescence further down:

On the downside many participants considered formal library instruction of little value to them – not because it wasn’t helpful or informative but it was hard to recall what was learned when it was needed for an assignment.

Hmmmm, signs of neurological stress and memory loss, particularly during sessions of library instruction.  We need some test subjects and further research.  Hopefully our note-taking abilities we won’t be afflicted.

the incidental opac

conceptLibrarians, I’ve come to understand, facilitate things.  Just like those late-night, seedy, ever anonymous entrepreneurs on streetcorners and in beer gardens possessing the ability to procure certain items on short notice for other unnamed yet interested parties, librarians too, embrace their responsibility of passing on their coveted contraband of information or that of retrieving such information.

And considering information retrieval, I’m incessantly perplexed with the utter obliviousness users have toward their library catalog.  It’s as if users take pride, relishing a certain sense of entitlement in their lack of curiosity toward navigating library resources.  Hence, the librarian is forced to find new ways to shuffle these students like cattle through the  slaughterhouse of information literacy or competency.

I’m not all that surprised that we now are induced to a vomit-inducing display of flashing lights and multimedia just to get students’ attention.  Should users actually spent five minutes exploring their OPAC (or listening to their librarians), they might actually learn how supremely practical subject headings can be.

Take for example, aquabrowser, a different kind of OPAC designed to display relationships based on searching terms.  My local public library uses it, along with the option of using a more traditional OPAC.  Aquabrowser uses a visual diagram of one’s search terms, highlighting possible misspellings, relationships, translations or thesaurus terms for one’s search.

I personally like it, however I feel it’s designed for the user who has no idea what they’re looking for, wherein I posit the hypothesis that those users are for the most part uncommon. Traditional OPACs will get the user to their items just as fast if not faster assuming they know what they’re looking for.

Users want to know if their materials are already checked out before they want to know what you have.  Therefore, the fact that you have an OPACs is incidental and it will be used primarily when one’s primary request has become unavailable.

Egads, you may be thinking…what is my point anyways?  Having OPACs that visually diagram your search, all supplemental and wondrous as they may be, may not necessarily be more useful than the standard OPACs, though less “dynamic” in the Web 2.0 sense.

Users, particularly college-level users mind you, aren’t familiar with their collections, and thus their OPACs.  I suppose that’s part of what makes us librarians freaks…we willingly, involuntarily befriend our collection regardless of whether a copy of Mall Cop has already been ordered and is on its way. Getting users to use the catalog for its own sake is herculean.