Thursday, December 29, 2011

Not Getting There, If... (#5)

More and more we have less and less time.  Even reading or surfing the Web can consume precious moments. Many are not aware of how much time they spend searching for something.  Set targets or you will tend to waste time on something that is not worth it.  Determine the risk of not knowing.  Can we just make the decision and move on.  What if we miss something, what would the possible consequences be?  If you remain aware of searching as an activity, you will become aware of time spent.  Try setting a time limit and then assess what you have found at the end.  Is it the topic or your search skills.  Ask a librarian to try the search.  Or ask the librarian to give you a guestimate of the time it should take to find it.  Librarians have searched so many different topics and know so many sources that they can have a real intuitive sense for time.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Not Getting There, If... (#4)

The fourth of our missteps is failing to set a clear target.  Before we set off on the trail of discovery, we have to determine how we will know if we found the answer.  This might seem ridiculous, but think about it.  Unless we set the boundaries, such as finding any domestic car with good gas mileage, below $15,000 in price, we will get off track.  There is much information to consider, but too little time.  As we go along, we need to constantly reset our boundaries given the volume of information, choices, and what we find out about the importance of particular factors.  Unless we determine, before we go to the supermarket, that we want only peach jam with no added sugar -- we will be reviewing way too many different brands, flavors, and concoctions for any decision to be made while standing at the shelves.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Not Getting There, If... (#3)

The third of the key missteps that we all do is - not setting a time limit for ourselves.  Each search we do has a different value to us - which we often ignore.  Sometimes we spend hours on a small matter and not nearly enough time on an important matter.  Determine three things:  1) when is the information due; 2) how much time will allot to it; and 3) when will you spend the time searching.  Only you can set these things since you know it or the person asking you for the information has told you.

Ask the librarian or friend who is helping you on the more difficult search to estimate how much time they think it will take.  Librarians have done so many searches that this is not an unreasonable question.  Also as if they think you will find the whole answer or only just part of it.  We want to search efficiently and save time.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Partnering with Faculty

The basic premise is that those students who take advantage of library resources and services engage more in academically challenging tasks.  As reported in a study by Santa Barbara City College:
“The greater the use of the library as a resource and research tool, the greater the progress students reported making toward developing the ability to learn on their own, pursue ideas, and find information they needed.” (Friedlander 21).
Student retention can be improved through the partnership of classroom faculty and librarians to engage students and enhance learning by expanding attempts to motivate students into acquiring the needed information literacy skills. The motivational aspect is often neglected though. William Badke's article from Online magazine (Nov 2009), called "Great Research Disaster" is a disturbing one and points to the (successful) aoidance methods students use to get papers done without using libraries.  

Friedlander, Jack and Peter MacDougall. “Achieving Student Success through Student Involvement.” Community College Review 20:1 (Summer 1992): 20-28. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bad Press on Librarians

Can't leave this one out-- Newt Gingrich’s dumbfounding comment about 12-year-olds working as librarians.  Just another in a league of comments and actions that point to the abandonment of the long tradition and long held views on the value of libraries.

One of the most comprehensive rebuttals is the ACRL/American Libraries Association response called the Value of Academic Libraries (see  It documents a myriad of efforts pointing to the positive impacts of books, facilities, and teaching done through libraries and librarians.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Not Getting There, If... (#2)

The second misstep is: Not Asking the Right Questions.  It is not easy to come up with the key question or questions that really hone in on what you need to find out.  A simple analogy:  Going to the supermarket and asking: "Which aisle has what I need to bake a turkey?"  They would look at you and shake their head.  If instead, you had already looked up the recipe and had, in hand, a list of the ingredients, you could ask for a roasting tray, a package of stuffing, etc.  Asking the right questions is really all about doing some initial search and reading so that you have the background or basics and are ready to ask pertinent questions.  Recently we had to buy a scanner for the library and wanted to get pricing.  We had a few recommended models that we found from a library listserv, but when we found a description we came across acronyms such as 30ppm, 300dpi, and 50-page ADF.  We had to translate them first -- then decide what we needed -- then we were armed with what we needed to ask for price.  Googling these got us too much confusion information, so we used and other tech equipment sites that had easy to use help guides.

BTW:  dpt=dots per inch (quality); ppm=pages per minute (scanned); and adp=automatic document feeder (size).

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Not Getting There, If... (#1)

Most people get off track right at the beginning.  We know we need some more information or a new perspective but we -- don't want to admit we are lost.  We don't want to admit we don't know.  Let's pretend as if we do so we don't appear stupid.  Let's be honest -- we all do this.  I have found that librarians, for sure, and most others respond well to someone saying - "I just don't know, but it's something I want to find out."

This will be a series on the missteps we all take in taking the path to finding answers to our questions.  There are twelve missteps.  As we go through them, think about how it applies to the last time you needed information on something important.  Or maybe you have something you are working on now - let me know!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

More About Decision Making

Here are the current books I read or am skimming that link decision making and clues about finding information: 

a.       Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
b.      How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer
c.   Everything is Obvious: Once You Know the Answer by Duncan J. Watts
d.       Ambient Findability by Peter Morville
e.      Everyday Information: The Evolution of Information Seeking in America by William Aspray and Barbara M. Hayes
f.       The Information: A History, A Theory, a Flood by James Gleick
g.       A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown
h.      The Social Animal: Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement by David Brooks
i.  The Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working by Torkel Klingberg.

These books report on new findings about decision-making research done in fields of cognitive and social psychology.  The challenge the assumption that people are generally rational and their thinking is normally sound.  Researchers documented systematic errors in the thinking of normal people and traced these errors to the design of our brains (“the machinery of cognition”) rather than to the corruption of thought by emotion.