Friday, November 28, 2008

Blog Reflection 8 - Library Instruction, (and how to use it)

It’s funny that the instructor’s choice for a blog reflection deals with what it deals with this week – library instruction, and how it currently factors into our overall experiences with it. I think that the library classes I have taken have proven to be very useful in teaching me how to utilize the full spectrum of resources at my fingertips. But there are still moments when all that I’ve learned seems to fail me.

Take this past week. We recently learned and used online databases for class research, and I navigated it pretty well. So, when one of my kids had an elementary school biome project due, I thought I had it made when it came to helping him find adaptations for three plants and three animals within an ocean biome – by helping him use the resources at his fingertips.

Getting an 8 year old to ‘come to the conclusion’ that certain elements of a plant or animal are adaptations to their environment without spelling it out can be a challenge in and of itself. But I tried to use online databases – science encyclopias and websites that were supposed to be designed for kids – to help him find his answers. I got answers, but at a level written to be understood by high school students. Finding information about red algae and its adaptations on a level that an 8 year old would understand – and find fun and interesting - proved to be far more difficult than some of our own class projects. And my teenager was of no help when he sensed my frustration and said, “just use Wikipedia, mom!”

But this is the nature of any reasearch, and especially with online databases, in my experience. It can be hit and miss. Personally, I felt frustrated, because this seemingly easy task of helping my 8 year old ‘find the information,’ did not end with satisfying results – and certainly not in the timeframe that his generation is ready to sit still for. Maybe that will develop as he grows, but my hunch is that, as a generation, it won’t.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Blog Reflection #7

This week we are supposed to reflect on the following questions: "What electronic/internet sources from the list below would you recommend a patron to use in their research process, and in what order? What value would each resource be in the process?"

Our choices are : Wikipedia, a favorite search engine, ProQuest (or other electronic journal/newspaper index),,, Encyclopedia subscription, subscription research databases (such as Facts on File or the Gale Group), or government sponsored websites.

That makes 8 choices total. And in considering the question, I can only come to the conclusion that it depends... The choice to make would depend on the specific information needs of the patron. I wouldn't be able to choose the best resource to begin with until I knew some specifics about the patron's information needs. It's too bad that "reference interview" isn't considered an electronic resource. I suppose it could be, if the patron was online asking the librarian for help via email or an RSS feed, but that isn't always the case.

So, if the patron is searching for general information on a broad range of topics, I might suggest Wikipedia. But I would emphasize that this source isn't entirely reliable, and that followup research should be done to verify any information found there. I would highly recommend the information found on ProQuest, Facts on File, or any of the encyclopedia databases available through the library's service. If the patron was looking for government info, or statistics, then I would immediately point them toward government websites.

If the patron was looking for the latest gossip on Lindsay Lohan, well, then just Google her name. Government sponsored sites and general encyclopedias would not be useful here. But ProQuest and other newspaper databases might, if you want to find out if any of that juicy gossip has a sliver of truth to it. I personally don't have much interest in the gossip about Lindsay Lohan... But maybe I should. She is an actress. I am a screenwriter. It might be good to know if that screenplay I sell in the future with Lindsay Lohan attached will be fraught with production woes because of tantrums and "creative differences" and what-not. But those are just rumors... Right?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Blog Reflection #6

Well, here it is, week #11 for library class 204. We're supposed to reflect on the readings and the resources that we have been exposed to as part of this class. Unfortunately, we're a little behind on the readings because of those nasty little unforeseen circumstances that life can throw at us. A lot of students would see this as an opportunity to take a break. I, however, am eager to get the readings done because I tend to think in a linear way (This is even true when I'm writing).

Not being able to access those last couple of readings makes me feel like the work I am trying to do is incomplete because I don't have a lesson to reference... An interesting point, those last three words. Maybe the inability to access the readings of the last two weeks is a clever ploy by our instructor to get us to think about that.

Am I overwhelmed by the resources we've been exposed to in this class? A little bit. But I think I've managed to find and utilize them fairly efficiently. Am I excited about the newly found wealth of information at my fingertips? Absolutely! Although, having access to all of that information still poses the challenge of how to decipher it. This was the case with Google Finance. There is so much information available at this website hub, but if you don't know much about the stock market, it can be overwhelming. Still, I guess like any new situation we find ourselves in, we learn with repeated exposure and time.

Our teacher posed the question, "How do you resist the urge to google instead of finding a reputable reference source?" I guess my answer to that is, "I don't." An example I can use is having to find information on Galen Clark. I tried two or three biographical and general encyclopedias with no information found. So I reverted to Google, and Wikipedia. Wikipedia had information about Galen Clark, and it led me to avenues to verify the information I found using more reputable sites. Google can be a very useful tool as long as you back up the information you find using reputable sources. The two can form a symbiotic relationship, given the right circumstances.