4A: Reflection on Class #3

The second part of our exploration of research tools, periodicals, and databases focused on the digital side of things. Where last week we compared different sources to their online databases and familiarized ourselves with the library’s resources, this week really engaged with the computer based things. We were no longer asking the question of “why do we even still need printed periodicals, indexes, and encyclopedias. Instead we looked at the virtual resources in isolation; it was about learning how we can make the online resources perform.

The biggest surprise for me was just how varied the platforms for each site were in both general set up, usability, and content.  Outside of the EBSCO run sites, which still had variation in the amount and types of filters, there were some very intuitive sites and others that were a struggle to navigate. Where the EBSCO run Library for Literature and Information Science Index was limited due to the finite amount of journals, the Gale Virtual Reference Library had a enormous variety of both subjects and information on those subjects. Some sites, like American Memory lacked ease of use due to its age, while Business Decision had much more modern and sleek system. And we looked at a very small sample size, I imagine there are sites even more unintuitive than the ones we looked at and others that cover an even smaller area of study.

The sheer variety and quality of these different sites does not necessarily mean one is superior or inferior than another. While the  LISA is immensely useful for librarians and those researching libraries, it is confusing and frustrating for someone who is trying to find general topics. In the same vein that Gale would be frustrating for a librarian attempting to find specific articles on an area of information science. A child would be better off using Kids InfoBits, but the information there would be next to useless for a phD candidate. The utility of these sites and even their usability are completely subjective. It all comes down to the information, the person looking for it, and what site best accomplishes that task. Without Shevon, I wouldn’t know the majority of the small sample existed and already I have highlighted ones that may be useful to me in the future.

It seems to me like the only person who would have the time, background, and resources to learn to navigate all these sites would be a librarian. It seems that the person a patron would look to to explain all their options would be a reference librarian. Without the librarian’s specialized skill set at their disposal, it would be difficult to locate the correct database. Even if they found the correct database, it would be even more difficult to locate the information they need within it without the help of someone with experience forming search queries. This makes me think that it is even more important than ever for a librarian to share their screen with users as they navigate through a search, rather than doing it and telling them what they found at the end of it. To me, the point of reference is to empower the user. So that, eventually, that user has the knowledge to navigate databases, such as those we looked at in class, and use them.

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3 thoughts on “4A: Reflection on Class #3

  1. Yet again, I am late but reading this weeks later has been very beneficial and given me time to reflect on past classes. Your post was a nice reminder that not all sources are created equal and that they often are designed with specific audiences in mind. Looking at this now, I see how beneficial this was to explore these sources prior to creating out Resource guides. We were able to see what we liked and did not like about these resources and I think that really translated into our group projects as seen in the class presentations.

    I too am a big fan of sharing the screen. I always use to view this as simple inclusion or instruction but I like your idea of “empower(ing) the user.” In demonstration and inclusion we are helping cultivate research tools in patrons and allowing them to embrace the research process later giving a sense of empowerment. This simple change in view I think is going to help me view the reference interaction different and I owe that to you! Thanks!

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  2. The specialized skills of librarians is significant to note, as we have debated throughout our class about the utility of reference. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for databases and I’m glad you point out that a typical patron might not be familiar with conducting a search through those means. Through sharing the screen, you are not only “empowering” the user, you are assisting in the transferring of a skill, which is better, more precise searching in a variety of environments. Helping the patron become more self-reliant in their library needs has really been the entire point of our class, from Green to Kenney, it’s just the debate has shifted its understanding of what the best practices are for instruction and service.

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  3. I was also surprised with the variation in usability and setup of the sources. Some of electronic versions were just awful, and I preferred the print format, although that was still hard to navigate through. I was shocked handling the Chicago Manual of Style. I used Chicago style throughout undergrad, but they were condensed versions. I had never actually handled the actual manual as a book before. I was overwhelmed by the beginning of the book because it has grammar rules and writing and research tips. The condensed versions I’ve used barely have any of that. I’m just used to a book that shows the citation formats. I am also overwhelmed with the number of sources that I had no knowledge about. It makes me wonder how long you have to be a librarian before you learn all of them.

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