Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Library Advantage

Starting to look a tiny bit like autumn

Before I'm miscast as the idiot who thinks there is no good information on the open web, I want to clarify something: When I'm thinking about information here, I'm referring to information relevant to research papers or projects in higher education. So, NOT information about how to put Linux on your machine, or how to diagnose your car trouble, or the name of that actress from that one movie. And I know, I know, a lot of academic information is appearing freely online, right next to the advertisements for deodorant and a free cruise.  

What I'm frustrated by right now is that real expertise can be difficult to untangle from the huge mass of random/partisan information you find when you're searching everything under the sun related to, for example, 'outsourcing' (a research paper topic I encountered this past week). 

Mostly, I'm annoyed by the fact that an academic library can be a FANTASTIC filter for a lot of junk floating around on the open web. The tradeoff, however, is that you have to know what you're doing when you use the library, and do it thoughtfully and deliberately. And I think for the most part this sends students back to google, to pound away fruitlessly for a few hours before feeling satisfied with a couple of semi-dubious sites.

Libraries are to the point where they should be hyping themselves as shortcuts in the research process, but somehow they are not, and instead they are often only used when instructors require it from their students. Why is this acceptable? 

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