Search engine optimization: how library and Internet differ

I have described how searching an online library catalog differs from using a search engine. I have pointed out that libraries have lots of information that is either not available for free on the Internet (most of the best databases) or not at all (most books and periodicals–especially if they are more than 15-20 years old). I have mentioned that library collections must be highly selective, whereas anyone can post something on the Internet. The Internet makes finding information easier than ever. Finding useful, accurate, and reliable information remains as difficult as ever, and one reason is called search engine … Continue reading

Search engines, online library catalogs: how they work

Most people begin to search for information using Google or other search engines. They turn to library catalogs later, if at all. When they get to the catalog, they have trouble using it if they expect it to work anything like Google. Some library and information technology professionals have drawn entirely wrong conclusions from that fact. One faction says it demonstrates that online library catalogs are obsolete, that the software system that runs them is old fashioned and difficult to program in, and therefore that we need to abandon the catalog. Another declares that people would use the catalog more … Continue reading

Information literacy and the art of detecting crap

Information literacy is the ability to tell good information from bad information, or crap. According to Sturgeon’s Law 90% of everything is crap. (Well, I just looked it up. Sturgeon actually said “crud,” but it’s usually quoted as “crap.”) On the Internet, no editor or gatekeeper has filtered out the 90%, so it is not only publicly visible, but there is so much more of it than ever before. I’m sure anyone reading this has received more than one forwarded email warning of certain doom from (choose one) a new computer virus / a defective product / poisoned food / … Continue reading

How not to do research

Here are some posts from a thread on an email list I follow. I am deleting anything that could identify the particular libraries where the posters work, although they are clearly all academic libraries. 1. A scenario reported by one of my colleagues:  student sitting at a computer not 5 feet from the reference desk where said colleague is stationed. He’s been there for quite a while.  As his friends walk by, he asks them how to find something, how to do something.  Colleague asks repeatedly if he needs any help and is rejected every time.  Then he starts phoning … Continue reading

Information literacy: the work of librarians past and present

As long as there have been public libraries, librarians have been involved in education. They have helped people choose what to read for leisure and helped with their information needs. The recent emphasis on information literacy is more of a new term than a new concept, but as technology has transformed everything in society, information literacy needs to be done differently. For most of the twentieth century, the best way for most people to identify books on a particular subject was the card catalog in the library. Specialists could use various published bibliographies or the Cumulative Book Index among other … Continue reading