Sources: primary, secondary, and tertiary

Everyone does research, because everyone looks for information at some time or another. Wherever anyone finds information is, of course, a source. Whenever we find a source, it follows that someone wrote it or spoke it into some kind or recording devise or is otherwise responsible for the fact that it exists. There are three general kinds of sources: primary, secondary, and tertiary. These terms mean something a little different from one discipline to another. The distinction is ordinarily introduced in order to prepare college students, and especially graduate students, to write term papers, theses, and dissertations. It is useful … Continue reading

FYI: initialisms in OED

What have texting and its conventions, abbreviations, and shortcuts done to our language? And what does it mean that some of them have even ended up in the Oxford English Dictionary? The end of civilization as we know it? Calm down! Can’t the spate of common initialisms be traced back at least as far as the New Deal? Isn’t the Oxford English Dictionary itself known as the OED? Granted, finding LOL, IMHO, FYI, BFF, and the gang in such august company as antidisestablishmentarianism and floccinaucinihilipilification is a bit of a departure. I have lately managed to reconnect with lots of … 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

Ask a librarian: help the librarian help you

Far beyond the collection, the equipment, or the building, the defining attribute of the library is the presence of librarians. You can ask a librarian how to find what you’re looking for and how to use what you find (catalog, databases, and various equipment). You do not even have to be in the library to ask a librarian a question. You can ask over the phone, by email, by chat, etc. Over the years, librarians have learned that the first question a patron asks is seldom what they really want to know. “I’m looking for books by Mark Twain” seems … Continue reading

Why do we still need libraries?

[ad name=”Google Adsense 468×60″] People have been asking that question for at least 20 years. I first became aware in the late 1980s that some college administrators regarded the library as obsolete. They thought it a good place to cut the budget. At that time, online databases had only recently become available for public use. There may have been some magazines and scholarly journals available online. “Everything’s online” was nothing more than wishful thinking on theĀ  part of the ignorant. Since then, the amount of information available on the Internet has increased exponentially. We could once say that older materials … Continue reading