Friday, October 28, 2011

Why the Crisis (#4): Decision Fatigue

A real and increasingly present challenge has emerged – called decision fatigue.  Coming as a discovery within the field of social psychology, this illuminates the fact that we do reach limits with our ability to consider and make decisions.  For the most active of us, this is a real problem as we manage our myriad of social media and communications.  For students and for the working poor, there is view presented that even minor decisions – what to have for supper – involves a debate because of scant resources.  I think this can help us to think about how much we seek also.  If we are tired or if our willpower is weak, then we rush to judgment without full consideration. 

See the article: Tierney, John. “To Choose Is to Lose.” NY Times. 21 Aug. 2011. P.33 which refers to the book co-written by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney, called Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Try This (#9): Google Reader

Referred to as a "blog aggregator" or "personal newspaper" the free site in Google called Reader can really save you time.  If you are separately tracking or subscribing to news, blogs, tweets - instead use Google Reader.

Create your Google account, if you don't have one already.  Go to Google and click the little 'More' pull-down menu to find Reader.  Sign-in using your gmail account.  Then simply click on Add a Subscription to get started.  You can search for an existing feed (blog, RSS) or paste an URL for one that you have in your bookmarks already.  The important utility is this -- you can go to library databases, create a search on your topic, and then have those results become RSS feeds into Reader.  So your net product is a flow of information on your topic from websites, social media, and library resources.

Have fun!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Art of Finding & Learning (#10): Fast But Not True

One of the dangers of our easy on/easy off use of Google is the fact that our gleaning may seem to have "found" something that makes sense but the answer may not be true.  In his challenging article, "The Surety of Fools," Daniel Kahneman (NYT, 10/23/11, Magazine Section, p.30+) says "fast thinking is not prone to doubt."  Well said.

We may have confidence in our search skills and we may find information, but we are not critical enough and we do not allow enough time for ourselves to think it through.  He points out a strange twist to how our minds work - if we can develop a good "story" then we are confident of the results.  Our minds yearn for coherence and are very prone to grasping at the first alignment of the facts possible.

The key principle here is challenge.  We must be our our challenger.  Open up that dialogue in your head and ask questions, "what if" and "how do you know" and "prove it."  Ask others to review our conclusions.

Think about it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Trends (#5): Books and More Books

Yes, despite the cry from ailing publishers, we are still drowning in books.  In 2010, publishers sold 2.6 billion copies (in all formats).  That represented a 4.1% increase over the previous year.  See the AAP site at  press site for the latest info.

The lastest debate is about the high cost of textbooks.  Go to  the Student PIRG site, to see their data and views.  With the average student spending of $900 per year for textbooks (GAO data), the expense has become a major consideration.  But relief is on the way in the form of less costly e-textbooks from even the major publishers (Macmillan's dynamicBooks and McGraw-Hill's eBook Library) and even open-access (free) e-versions from a variety of non-profits and consortial sites, such as Connexions and Flat World Knowledge.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Art of Finding & Learning (#9): I Know It!

I know it! -- In many arenas this is really a statement the means: “I have faith in it.”  In many arenas – e.g. global warming, origins of the planet – we can’t completely know.  I came across this delineation of “faith, “from the world of theology, which can help us to understand where we are before becoming embroiled in heated debates.
1st Dimension of Faith is the Latin word, NOTITIA.  Like our modern day word "notice,” notitia mean data or information.  I have knowledge of the basic facts. We need to understand the basic facts of global warming before we can debate it.  This is the content portion of an issue of faith. 
            In order to discuss an issue, you have to get the facts straight.
            In order the get the right facts, we have to do a complete FINDING.
2nd Dimension of  Faith is the Latin word, ASSENSUS which means to intellectually assent to or agree to --- I have come to believe that the facts in this care are generally true.  I have confidence that what I learned about global warming is true. 
            In order to express an opinion, honestly, you have to believe it is true.
            To believe it is true, I have to trust in the facts and trust in the conclusions – I must know that my sources are reliable and that the conclusions are reasonable.  We have to evaluate our FINDING results. 
3rd Dimension of Faith is the Latin word FIDUCIA which means to actively place trust in or personally believe in the conclusions.  I have decided to embrace it so that it impacts me.  I know that global warming is happening and it is impacting the weather around me. Therefore, I will take a stance or take actions to help remedy the situation.
            When you embrace and believe in an issue, then it leads to actions. 
            In order to believe, we have to find, evaluate, & conclude.  At some point we have to decide that we spent enough time and effort in FINDING and have spent enough time and effort in LEARNING that we are ready to decide and act. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Try This (#8): Guess-the-Google

I am surprised I did not mention this before.  The all-time fun and interesting online game is Guess-the-Google where you look at a set of images and try to guess the WORD that applies to them all.

Go to Guess-the-Google and try it.

What it is doing is testing your ability to find the right search term - what Librarians would call "Keyword" or "Subject Term" and what might be selected by professional indexers if they were indexing a site.  In Google there are no indexers.  The raw text for part of the site is used for input (word by word) to the search engine.

So use this with your friends or use this in the classroom to get at the issue of choosing the right word to describe a set of items.  This is the skill - a word game -- that is crucial to you finding what you need when you do either a Google search or when you search for articles in library databases.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Try This (#7): Do a Wordle

Wonderful article in C&RL News from this month, October 2011.  Talks about the 'word cloud' website Wordle -  Enter the URL for any website or blog or for any document or just cut/paste of text and it gives you a VIEW of what you have.  It shows the frequency of words found by size.  Quite a fun site.

Take a look at the Find & Learn word cloud created by simply entering the link to this blog.
Some of the library databases already use this kind of array for database searches, but I think this tool will widen the application - even for challenging & fun views of various websites or documents.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Art of Finding & Learning (#8): In Praise of Not Knowing

Wonderful short essay by Tim Kreider in the New York Times (Sunday, June 19, 2011; p.8) titled, "In Praise of Not Knowing."   He talks about the greater prevalence of mystery in our lives in the times before the Internet and the before the ease of Google.  In fact, there is some celebration and fun in being one of the few to know.  Or of being puzzled about something that we cannot know.  His great line is, "information that we can't find spurs the imagination."  I think curiosity and the ability to live with ambiguity are key traits for success.

Of course the big questions, like "Why did the Universe begin?" will always be a profound mystery.  So some questions always remain.  But I think vastness of knowledge can be a wonder to all too.  It's wonderful also on a small scale.  The complexity and depth of knowledge on a specific topic, like for me - the french horn, is wonderful.  As a horn player, I shall never master everything about the horn, nor will I know about or hear every piece ever written for the horn.  I am a traveller and learner -- but of only pieces and in a glass darkly.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Put it to the Test

If you offer your opinion or read something that riles you – you need to put it to the test.  Yes, go to Google (use Advanced Search to find current sites only) but also go to your Library databases.  Search a national or local newspaper; check out a reliable journal.

As you probably do, I get so many “alerts” from friends.  When we send out links or the latest “news” item – we do call into question exactly what or who we are following.   Your posting or email reflects on your judgment.  Just because it is on Google or has been “published” doesn’t mean we should pass it on.  By passing it on, we condone it. 

Our ability to search reveals us.  It reveals our judgment and our thinking abilities.  It reveals our willingness to spend that extra time to find true answers and our desire to provide value to our audience – even if it is only family or friends.  Think about it.  

Monday, October 10, 2011

Art of Finding & Learning (#7): Beginner's Mind

Heard a sermon yesterday and I think what was brought up applies here - the concept of learning with a beginner's mind.  Comes from the word, "shoshin" from the disciplines of Zen Buddhism and Japanese martial arts.  It suggests that we approach learning in the same way as a beginner, that is with: eagerness,openness, and without any preconceptions.

This attitude is a key trait of a fine reference librarian.  The reference librarian has to come to any request without being tempted to react: "don't you know that;"  "let me tell you;" or "not again!"  They need to put on the mind of the inquirer and see the issue from their inquiry.

For ourselves personally, it is always our assumptions that trip us up.  If you can start fresh or from the beginning, you can avoid this problem.  I suggest to my students that they "pretend as if" whenever they get a research paper assignment or when they are on the job and are told to go find the answer.  We may indeed know nothing or even care less, but the full answer will not come easily unless we can approach the issue as if interested, curious, or captivated.

Are you?

1 - Willing to learn
2 - Willing to pass it on to others
3 - Eager for life-long learning

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Art of Finding & Learning (#6): Gratitude

Gratitude follows learning.  I have spent many hours listening to and reading about music.  I can say I know a lot about music and feel very thankful that this knowing allows me to listen so richly to all kinds of music.  Yes, knowing is rewarding.  Think about the rewards.  The more I experience those rewards, the more I can set the direction for the next unknown.  Even though I have spent years as a researcher and librarian, there is still so much a mystery - just as in music.  The twists and turns of uncovering and discovery are still surprising to me.  That's the wonder.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Trends (#4): Non-Google World

In their latest review of the 'Invisible Web' the website provides their estimates of the size of the Internet.  The Google World (everything found using represents only 8% of the total pages hosted on the Internet.  That 8% if large, though, - with some 26.5 billion public web pages being indexed by Google.  But the Non-Google World is much, much  larger with some 300 billion web pages.

When I teach I call it the non-Google world.  Others refer to it as "invisible Web," or "deep web" or "grey web" or "cloaked web."  Essentially any content that is not findable by Google.  Examples: product reviews; full-text articles; academic archives; tax documents...

We forget that this non-Google world exists and can be found if we look for the most logical site (that would contain the information we need) and not the actual data we need.  These sites are:

  1. Pages that are called up only after a separate search done within that site (not at Google). 
  2. Corporate intranet pages that are private and require a password to access.
  3. On-demand databases where the data or content pages only appear if you run a search and the page is then created.  These pages are stored but are not indexed by public search engines.
  4. All the library databases fall in this category as they are subscribed to (paid for) by libraries, the institutions, or the consortiums and then placed for easy access on the Internet.
When you think Google is the answer - or only answer - then think again.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Art of Finding & Learning (#5): Perfect Start

Most of us are perplexed on how to start down the path.  We are nervous, impatient, or fearful of the situation we face and we want answers fast.  If we can face down these emotions, while at the same time moving forward at thinking through the situation - we've made progress.  Not all situations demand information or something new.  Many times, we just need to remind ourselves of what we know or calm down enough to make the decision.  Yes, this is a librarian saying we don't always need information.  Most of us tend to not look for information or to grasp for the first thing we find out.  A few of us (like me - a real planning type) spend too much time looking.

How to start:
1. Talk it through in your own head or talk it through with someone.  We all need the dialogue.
2. Can you decide or really have already decided which way to go?  Just go.
3. If you find that there is a gap - that you need some questions answered - start asking around.
4. Then as you go - listen for the sources, the persons or groups, that are mentioned the most and see if you can go there for the information.
5. Write down the decision you need to make and the key questions you have - and answer those.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Why the Crisis? (#3)

A very important revealing project you should know about.  The Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries ( has finished its two-year project that carefully studied college students to find out how they are conducting research.  The project delved deeply into their activities and ferreted out the rationale for the approaches taken to completing assignments and investigating topics of study.

The findings are disturbing and support other studies that conclude students rarely seek help from librarians and are not sure of what librarians do.  Today's students efforts to navigate the library system and dive into non-Google resources net very poor results.  This hi-tech generation may be facile at the basics and social media, but are not learning the 21st century skills needed for today's information worker.

See the list of presentations the team has created and presented around the country at this link.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Try This (#6): Educational Technology

There is a lot of good experimentation going on to use technology as a tool in education to:
1. Improve student engagement
2. Expand interaction between faculty and student
3. Take advantage of access busting mobile tools

Try these sites:
 ReadWriteWeb ( - good hi-tech blog with latest newsThe EdLib Report (University of South Florida; - library specific
 Emerging Technologies Librarian ( - PF Anderson