Call for Information Professionals to Take Charge

I may be misinterpreting Stephen Arnold’s words with my headline, but if you read his post here and disagree with my interpretation, the comments field is open.

As a law librarian, I took on the training of summer associates, fall associates and partners.  Their training needs were based upon the fact that they underutilized the power of the commercial databases at their disposal and didn’t use the free resources on the Internet to their greatest advantage.

Librarians are continuously learning and expanding their own knowledge base.  Partnering with vendors to maximize the powerful information collected in commercial services is just one way to win friends and influence users.

Keyword search with Google is so easy because most people are looking for those top indexed terms.  Applying the Google method of search to complex information collections does not assure accurate results.  If you are searching within a specific industry’sdata and that industry serves multiple audiences that use similar terms that talk about vastly different topics,  you will understand that search is more than keywords.

Taxonomies, language structure, database structure and more affect how information is retrieved.  The average user doesn’t think beyond their own interpretation of  a topic and may turn away frustrated or satisfied when they have no information or the wrong information.  And therein lies the danger because the average user does not recognize that the correct information is there, just beyond their keywords.

Without the education provided by information professionals the inaccuracies caused by amateur searchers could have significant impacts on business and research.  Our profession must iterate the importance of information literacy that reaches beyond keyword retrieval.  Verification of sources, currency, accuracy and complex search techniques are critical skills.  No one is better able or placed to teach those skills than librarians.

So my fellow professionals, take up the charge and continue the fight.  We must demonstrate the need, the problems caused by not meeting that need and why we are in the best position to meet the need.  Teach information literacy beyond keyword search.  Teach to cause and effect and champion yourself as the key weapon in the battle for information retrieval.

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One Response to Call for Information Professionals to Take Charge

  1. satansparakeet says:

    I mostly agree, particularly where you say “We must demonstrate the need, the problems caused by not meeting that need and why we are in the best position to meet the need.” The problem is that people seldom understand that the searches they are doing are ineffective and that makes it quite difficult to “demonstrate the need.” In fact, most of the time ineffective searches are more than sufficient. If I want to know the population of Kentucky or the GDP of Iran, I can type those phrases into Google and get immediate answers without knowing anything about forming effective searches.

    The trick is getting people to understand that searches for complex information require another level of search expertise that they may not have. It’s somewhat easier to do that when you are in a corporate environment with a captive audience that you interact with on a regular basis, but it’s much more difficult in public libraries and large universities. I’d like to see more libraries put up examples (on websites or handouts or whatever other marketing materials are convenient) of the kind of information they can deliver and compare it to a Google search to show the difference. I think most people believe they are good at search because it is now something almost everyone does every day. It’s going to be difficult to break people out of that mindset.

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