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?

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 conversationĀ 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!

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.).