At the end of sessions, there’s usually time for a question and answer time. Some of the questions I heard made me wonder… but first, a disclaimer: questions and people who ask them rock. I’m glad people ask them. Things that seem basic to me are new to others (and vice-versa, depending on the topic). So questions are great – they’re part of the learning process.
But, I’m thinking that sometimes, a question can show the bias of a librarian, and the personality of a library… and show how well they’ll be able to ride the current and ongoing wave of information change.
So here are those questions that made me go “huh”:
1. “How do you filter out all the dot com websites so you can get just the pure information” (when doing a search on Google). What???!!!??? How is information that happens to be on a dot com site not “pure,” but information on a, say, dot edu or dot gov site, somehow more valid information? Just one person’s question – but from a librarian. And it means that more than one probably think this way… shows that more training is needed on how to evaluate information found on the web.
2. “Is SEO [Search Engine Optimization] contrary to a library’s role of properly categorizing text-based information?” No, it’s not. If libraries worked on optimizing their websites, more of our great but hidden information would show it’s face on websites. And that’s a way to reach out to people who don’t normally come to your library.
3. “Search engines are pushing lots of image-based search products lately. How do libraries deal with this information shift, since we mainly deal with text?” Two ways to comment here:
- Libraries have all types of images. Lots of them. And a lot of other media… think maps, pictures in books and magazines, CDs, video, etc. We just put descriptive text around each item.
- The web IS changing how we operate. Or actually, I should say that our users are finding that the web can be adapted to their various learning and entertainment styles. So people are creating their own tagging systems that work for them, and they’re discovering more visual and aural types of resources.
Librarians need to embrace this, since we tote ourselves as learning facilitators and our libraries as learning facilities.
4. A comment during a presentation – “a large number of students aren’t reading print books, except for class assignments.” I swear, I could almost feel a moment of silence for the print book when this was mentioned (the room got very quiet). What wasn’t mentioned was this: those students are most likely still reading – just not print books. They’re reading ebooks, email, IM messages, etc. Librarians have to get over this content vs. container thing. What’s more imprtant – a book’s physical pages and cover, or a book’s content?
5. Complaints about poor grammar in IM messages. This sorta relates to #4 above. Hang with me here a sec – when I talk to someone in person or on the phone, no one knows if I can spell the words I use, and don’t tend to complain if I stumble around a bit while trying to get something out. When talking, it’s the immediate communication that is important.
IM is also an immediate form of communication – it happens in real time. So the actual, immediate communication taking place is the important part of an IM message – not the grammar. We need to get over our grammar quirk, and adapt the communication that our customers use.
So – all things that made me go “huh.” And all very valid questions. My guess? As long as questions like the ones above are being asked, there will be a need for a conference like Computers in Libraries. Huh.