Wednesday, March 17, 2010

This week in Reference -- It's only Wednesday

It's only Wednesday and already we had some questions that are worthy of a "special award." Some teachers still do not understand the nature of scholarly research in today's libraries. While I won over one holdout last semester, today a fellow librarian reports that one teacher told his students that not only can't they use the Internet, they can only use books published by professional associations. Doesn't the teacher know that many publishers including commercial publishers and university presses publish scholarly materials? In my introduction to the library I make a point of telling students part of scholarly research is learning to judge a source critically. The fact that it appears on a personal web site does not mean it is good or not good. The fact that ABC Publisher publishes the book does not mean all the facts and conclusion are correct. The students using multiple sources and their
sehel (common sense) need to figure out what is realizable.

A staff member (call her L) from the computer support group came to the circulation desk. L went to high school with the head of circulation (HC). L asked in a very raspy demanding tone of voice, "Would you get me a drink of water? I don't think I have enough energy to walk to the drinking fountain. I don't want to die in the library." After HC gave L the water L said, "I feel much better. I think the flowers at my desk are making me sick. I told my department to drag me outside if I collapse so I won't die at my desk."

A student came and asked for help finding issues of National Geographic. She thought NG would have information about "black smokers." In the course of the interview she said the information was her 7th grade daughter. I was puzzled as to why she thought NG would have articles on smokers. I went to ProQuest and searched "black smokers" and found too many hits. I thought she was looking for Afro-Americans who smoke tobacco because I know the rate of smokers is higher among Afro-Americans and whites. Since this was for a 7th grader I suggested first looking in an encyclopedia for a general article. We tried Wikipedia and got an immediate hit. The article, "black smoker" is about hydro -thermal vents. The student said, "Great! That is exactly what we needed." I guess I was lucky. I found the right answer by dumb luck.

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