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

Yeah, you can use my catalog: don’t forget the databases

In this blog I have tried in a number of different ways to explain and promote the uses of online library catalogs and other databases. Students and faculty at the University of Washington iSchool decided to promote their catalog a la Lady Gaga.   Librarians have been sharing the video among themselves. Since The All-Purpose Guru hopes to reach out to library users and potential library users–and since that was the whole point of creating it in the first place–I offer it to my readers, librarians or not! Enjoy. … Continue reading

Especially for researchers: that means you!

Research conjures up images of a scientist in his lab or a scholar toiling away in the library working on  his or her next tome. That’s research, to be sure, but it can also be a college student writing a term paper. For that matter, it can be finding out information about cars before heading to the dealership or checking out the classified ads. What is research? It’s the systematic process of investigation of some subject of interest by gathering and analyzing information about it. Usually research results in some kind of action. Writing a report is one possible outcome. … Continue reading

Ask your friendly librarian

In the early 1990s, my then 20-year-old step-son wanted to buy a used car. He found the choices and all of the questions he needed to answer overwhelming. I suggested he could get some good answers at the library, and he asked me to go with him. We walked into the library and straight back to the reference desk. I asked the librarian what information they had on buying a used car, and she quickly handed me four books. I gave them to my son and showed him to the copier. He looked through them, copied several pages, and gave … 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