The metamorphosis

19 Jul

First, I do apologize for not posting in so long; I return with good news, however, and that is good for this blog.  I became the head of collection development and acquisitions at my job, so I’ve been getting the hang of that, but now that I feel like I’ve got a grip on it (no matter if it’s tenuous), I have topics to discuss!

I woke in the middle of the night last night, and knew that I have completely transformed into a librarian; I had a dream about finding material to add to our web resources.  The interface I was finding material through was beautiful, intuitive, and user-centric, and yielded only credible, useable results – such a dream!  My next, nearly-immediate response was that I was done for, now that I’m having dreams about finding resources for patrons.

But it did lead me to some interesting thoughts.  The reason my dream-self so enjoyed this engine was because of its transparency.  I knew why I was getting the results that I found, and I knew how to change my query so I would be able to fine-tune them.  I think this is a challenge for all information professionals at some point.  Have you ever gone to research something, and been frustrated because the search engine was being obtuse?  I have.  You then perform mental- and query-contortions to tease the results you know must be out there from the stubborn database and, while ultimately successful to varying degrees, you leave with a cold and disenchanted feeling, perhaps wondering where your search mojo has gone.

We librarians tend to value transparency in information.  To confirm this, think back to the last reference encounter you had (either conducted or received) that was not a simple ready-reference, and ask yourself: did the librarian talk you through/show you what he or she was doing to get you your answer?  I’m betting the answer is yes.  We’re all trained to do that because we want to foster information independence in our patrons and we believe the way to do that is gentle instruction on how databases and search engines function.  We think that once they understand how these tools work, the data will become transparent to them and they will be able to go off on their own and perform queries that will, for the most part, serve their needs.  Then, at some point we face disillusionment and instead choose to persevere in the hope that one day, there will be some service, some method, that makes information consumption easy and accessible for everyone.

I have no idea how one would even construct such a service, but I definitely want to be the first one to play with it.


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