Still hoping for a debate

October 3, 2009

Hey readers! I’m still looking for someone to argue against the libraries! It shouldn’t be that hard, right? I mean, in the poll, we all voted against them. Tell me why.

Perhaps its not that libraries lose, but the inconvenience of having to leave the house and drive to one outweighs all of the benefits of a library. Perhaps thats the case.

But then, how can all of you librarians use that? If you work in a library there should be no reason to find information anywhere else.

Unless, you are so burnt out from helping others, that you have no energy left to help yourself.

But I won’t know unless you tell me!

Lets have a debate!

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After checking out the results of my survey, and thank you to all who voted, I wasn’t surprised to see the search engines in the lead. How can a library compete with convenient, almost instant access to more information than anyone can catalog? So, I’ve put some thought into it and decided that, if this were a debate, I’d want to be on the library side. Libraries have been around for a long time, and for good reason, they are very useful and have many benefits! So, I’m siding for the library, anyone want to debate against me?

My Top 10 Reason’s to visit a Library:

  1. Reference experts for assistance whenever you need it
  2. Instant information
  3. Print books and resources
  4. Authoritative sources
  5. No “spam”
  6. Community programs and classes
  7. Local sections
  8. Computer access
  9. Less distractions
  10. All full text

1- Reference librarians are wonderful. Though not every library employee is qualified to search for and answer questions (a common misconception of patrons), those who are do a wonderful job sorting through the rubble to find nuggets of information. Reference librarians educate those who are technologically challenged, recommend books for those who are unsure, and answer questions for those who don’t even know what the question is.

2- Information is fast in a libraryI. If you email or ask someone, you may have to wait for their reply. There is nothing like taking it into your own hands and searching out an answer. Chances are, if you aren’t searching for anything too obscure, you will be able to find it at the library.

3- Print books are the backbone of many libraries. That is slowly changing, but you’ll never take print books away from me. Its difficult to read a bedtime story in front of a computer (however, disney is making an attempt to change that- see lisnews.org for the full story). Screen glare and remaining in one place alienate other would-be online readers.

4. Libraries contain authoritative sources. With search engines, you have to sift through many hits that are written by undereducated people. If you searched for “dog training” you might get everything from “How to train your dog- Victoria Stillwell” to “I trained my dog to sit- Bubba Hick”. It takes extra time to weed through articles that are not authoritative.

5. No “spam”– with a search engine, a simple query may return several thousand hits.

6- Community programs and classes, for example, story time, english classes or computer classes are available. Check out your local libraries webpages for specific offerings. Educating the community and keeping kids occupied with good pursuits.

7- Local sections contain specialized information about the geographic area near a library. This is useful and saves some searching because the sources are already pulled out into a special area for you.

8- Computer access is available for those who do not have home computers or access at work. Computers are very necessary in our society, with most job applications being online only, access at a library might be the only way for some people to use the internet.

9- There are less distractions at a library. No food to cook or rooms to clean, no barking dogs or T.V. to turn on.

10- Everything at a library is full text. Sometimes, you can access newspapers and magazines on the internet, but not always in full text. Libraries subscribe to many print newspapers and magazines that can be read in full text at a library (ex. The Washington Post, Bride, Sports Illustrated, Ebony etc).

So, anyone for the debate? Why do you think that search engines are better?

I’ve made a poll! Where do you turn when you are looking for information? Where do you go first? The answers may surprise us all.

The truth is, a lot of people go EVERYWHERE else before they go to a library. After discussing library anxiety a couple of days ago, I understand why. Many people are intimidated by, afraid of, or simply do not understand the library system and how to use it when seeking information.

Take the survey! Check out the results!

Today, CNN had an article about the Google Wave and its beta release tomorrow.

At first, it might not seem like this release is particularly related to the library field, but it is. Google hopes that the Wave will revolutionize the way people use the web. Here is a short description from the Google site- “Google Wave is an online tool for real-time communication and collaboration. A wave can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more”

I think the key for this new platform is “collaboration”. Facebook, Delicious, Twitter and other web 2.0 sites have really taken advantage of web users desire to network and collaborate with others. Its about time that an email application got into the game.

Another quote that interested me, this one from the CNN article, says “e-mail (currently) is a computer version of snail mail. Wave will be something new, a real-time communication system designed specifically for today’s faster-paced, multitasking Internet”

So what will happen to other “snail mail”-like applications if the Wave succeeds? I would consider most online catalogs (OPAC’s) and databases to be similar to snail mail. They are old technology. They cannot be updated or edited by users. There is no collaboration.

Users are beginning to expect and desire the ability to collaborate and edit the web resources that they use. There has been a lot of talk about how OPAC’s and databases are not user friendly. STILL. Even though web 2.0 technologies have been around for several years now.

Its a call to change.

Check out the full articles in the links above!

I recently read blog.com’s top 10 library blog list. There are two blogs I have been reading on a regular basis in there, but many that I had not been introduced to.

I’ve been reading Librarian in Black and The Shifted Librarian. I think it’s important to read other blogs on my favorite topics because it adds insight. There is always something new to learn. These two blogs do not disappoint!

I am amazed at how quickly Librarian in Black picks up the new news from the industry. She has kept me updated on the Google Books debacle and introduced me to the private school library that is removing all print books from their shelves. Her posts are short and to the point. Not bogged down with unnecessary words.

The Shifted Librarian tends toward longer posts, but they are still good! She has a good post on Libraries and Innovation Specialists and how each can help the other.

The other blogs on the list are (in order):

CILIP Information and Advice weblog
HeyJude
Judge a Book by its Cover
Laika’s MedLibLog
Rambling Librarian
Spineless?
Tales of One City
Tame the Web

Several of these blogs are specialized beyond librarianship. I doubt I will be interested in the MedLibLog because I am not interested in medical librarianship. Another blog, CILIP, is for librarians in the UK. Still, this list is a great resource to consider when reading blogs about libraries.

I plan to subscribe to several of these blogs on my reader. What about you?

A side note. Many of these blogs are hosted by WordPress. I feel pretty good about my platform choice now!

Library anxiety

September 28, 2009

Library anxiety. What is it? Really it’s a phrase, coined to describe the feelings of fear, anxiousness, nervousness, intimidation and uncomfortableness that library users, especially first time users, feel.

Think back, remember that first big paper you wrote in college. You walked to the library to do some research and didn’t even know where to start or who to ask for help. The building was large and unfamiliar. You might have felt lost. Everyone else in the library was busy, reading or writing, it seemed like you were the only one who was not sure of yourself. You felt all alone.

Many people are right there in that place. They have had bad experiences in the past and give up on the system. Honestly, my own experience was similar and because of it, I never used to the resources a library has to offer to its potential.

I missed out because I was intimidated by the library system.

Too bad. Studying librarianship, I am beginning to see how much a library has to offer and how much I missed. There were employees that could have helped answer my questions. They could have taught me how to become a better researcher. They can assist with topic selection and the narrowing or broadening of that topic.

So why am I, and others, anxious at times in a library setting?

The physical building is intimidating. It is large and unknown. Libraries are built to feel grand and impressive. The idea is that they contain so much knowledge, they must be grand.

The layout is confusing and complicated. What does “circulation” mean? Is there a reference desk? Are all library employees qualified to answer my questions? Where do I go to get started?

The staff are uninviting. They look imposing. Their body language is scary. They didn’t greet me or ask if I needed help. I asked them for help and they lectured me.

I cannot find what I am looking for. I don’t know where to search. I don’t understand search math or boolean searching. What is a periodical? Where are the books?

I’ve had bad luck in libraries before. I’m not likely to want to go back, or ask any questions again. I’m going to try every other information option available before I go to a library. I will be doubtful of success in the library.

What about you? What is the most intimidating thing about a library to you? Is a library your first source for information or do you go to other places first (like the web, friends, coworkers etc.).

E-Profile

September 26, 2009

How many other library students are out there? Really, there are more than I can count.

There’s a new graduation option open to a lucky four guinea pigs this year at my school. It’s called the “E-Profile”. The handbook is not out yet, so the concept is loose. But basically, over the course of a students school term, the student will be saving samples of work completed and then pasting it together into an online portfolio. The idea is that this option gives employers something to see besides a grade, to an unknown test, on a piece of paper.

I want to be one of those guinea pigs. Seriously, pick me. Study me. Poke and prod me. Just let me make a portfolio.

This may seem like a lazy man’s option, but it’s not. Sure, some of the work for my graduation final is done during other classes (awesome), but other pieces have to be created to pull everything together. I believe there will also be a portfolio presentation, perhaps like a thesis presentation. I bet, in the end, the E-Portfolio option will be more work than taking an exam and studying for it.

Still, a portfolio just sounds like more fun.

I might even consider creating an E-Portfolio for nothing, no credit, just because I think that it is something that employers would consider when hiring.

Anything for that competitive edge.

It will still be a long ways before the guinea pigs are chosen. I’ll let you know. I know that the option has drawn a lot of attention and interest. Who can blame it?

Memex to Hypertext

September 22, 2009

Learned something new in class today, that happens a lot! But anyways, today we have been discussing the differences between the internet, world wide web and internet 2 (yes, there are differences). Then, we got to talking about hypertext and its history. Everyone who has ever used the world wide web has seen hypertext, even if they didn’t realize it. Its everywhere!

Click here!

I find hypertext to be very useful. Its nice to be able to find other pages that are associated with the topic that I am studying. Its free information without a new search.

The memex is a precursor to hypertext. It was formulated around 1945, which is a long time ago!

Wikipedia (thanks Web 2.0) has a good description of what a memex is. A brief description would show a desk with two monitors, a stylus, a joystick and a slot on the right. A print document goes into the slot and is scanned onto microfilm. Then, it can be pulled up on a monitor. A person could use the stylus to link documents together (based on topic etc) and the links would show up every time either document was accessed after that.

The memex was theoretical, clunky and impractical at that time. Its just interesting to think that the idea of hypertext has been around for so long!

I find it amazing that someone can be so forward thinking. He (Vannevar Bush) created a concept in such detail that the technology of the time did not support it.

That type of forward thinking made me wonder what my generation has come up with, that will be realistic in a later time.

STAR WARS! Well, it came around a bit later, in 1977. Not quite my generation. Or, Star Trek from 1966.

Still, the idea of spaceships… or …teleportation sounds nice. At least it would save some gas money. Perhaps that is the technology we should be researching, instead of all of these electric cars and biofuels.

This question took me by surprise. Who would really consider false information useful? False information leads people astray, it can steer them in the wrong direction if they get two different views to answer the same question.

The logical side in me asks, what good would information be if it were false? I really had to think about this question.

Then, I thought of a couple of senarios where false information was useful.

First, consider a child, the child seems nervous and panics when you attempt to go in her room. She says “Don’t go in, there’s nothing in there”. The statement (information) is false, it is obvious by her reactions, but it did provide something meaningful to you. You learn that you SHOULD indeed go into the room, because something is going on that you need to know about. In this example, it is necessary to understand in advance that the information is false.

Second, lets return to my “cop show” example from last entry. Lets say, our cop has a witness in the interview room. The witness answers questions about a case and then is allowed to leave. The witness says that he was “ballroom dancing from 7 until 10 on the night of the crime”. That statement is information. Now, in the course of the investigation, the team learns that the witness lied about where he was on the night of the crime. Why would he state his whereabouts falsely? The information becomes important and meaningful. He obviously has something to hide. In this example, it is not necessary to know that the information was false at the beginning, but it was necessary to find out later.

So, my final answer? I believe that false information can be meaningful. However, I have to classify that and say that somewhere along the line, it must become apparent that the information is false. The reason that the person falsified the information then conveys the meaning.

I can’t think of any reason false information, that was not found to be false, would be useful. Can you?

I classmate asked a question on a discussion board for school. She asked if we could say that anything is not informative. I believe that we can’t, I believe that everything is informative… even a speck of dust.

Lately, cop shows like CSI and NCIS flood the T.V. guide channel. Anyone who has watched one of those shows knows that the smallest piece of anything, even that speck of dust, can help an investigation. That speck of dust can tell the searcher where the body (because it is always a body) has been. A strand of hair can have DNA and become evidence. A carpet fiber can define the make or model of a car.

I’m not saying that anything will solve a complete puzzle. Perhaps it will just be a piece. Then, when combined with other pieces, it can tell a whole story. It usually takes many pieces of information to complete that story.

Can you think of anything that would not be informative about something?

I can’t.