We all have in our little toolbox of talents information-seeking skills. We are born curious, hungry to learn. We seek out, absorb, and assimilate knowledge. Over time, we learn to be more discerning about the bits of information we choose to take in, and naturally filter out information we deem to be irrelevant to our needs.
As a librarian, I try to facilitate that process for the information seeker.
It does not surprise too many to know that most library workers are well-read, educated people. What does tend to surprise though is that I hold a Masters-level Library qualification and that most career librarians hold that qualification. The Master’s degree provides the information professional with the foundations for understanding the information landscape – where information is created, how, by whom, for whom, and for what purpose. Does a Master’s degree really make a difference? Sometimes it does.
A Postgraduate client came to me for help to find a piece of information that I managed to track down quickly. The look on her face was priceless. “I spent all day looking for this, and you find it in 10 minutes.” she said.
That does not always happen, by-the-by, but when it does it is glorious. I am not ashamed to admit to a little bit of librarian smugness and all I really want to do is take a picture of her face and send it to those decision-makers who believe libraries and the skills of librarians are obsolete because we have Google.
I’m not really going to sit here and vilify Google. I love Google! Most librarians do. It is our dirty little secret. Because of Google, I have learned to make my own shampoo and conditioner from baking soda and vinegar, acquired the skills to fold a fitted sheet neatly, and diagnosed any number of illnesses and ailments, including leprosy (I survived).
I also used Google to answer the query I mentioned above.
I’m not going to criticize how the client executed her search strategy either. She was not without skills. She did everything right, everything that I initially thought to do to search for the answer to her question. But unlike her, and this is where the librarian training does come in handy, I was able to come at the query from a different angle, not as a researcher looking for the information, but as a creator wanting to distribute the information. Once I did that, finding the information was easy.
It is on the fringes of these information-seeking behaviours where librarians add value to the researcher. Librarians don’t live solely within the confines of the “Library”. We see the value of Google, Wikipedia, social media and how they fit into the information framework along with more reputable sources. We know that knowledge comes in many forms, exists in many different types of repositories and we know how to leverage that value for our users.
Because it is our users that create demand and drive collection management practices. So, where are they, where are our users? A question that will be discussed in the next blog post by guest blogger, Troy Tuhou.