On information seeking report

The Project Information Literacy released their research report titled “Lessons Learned: How College Students Seek Information in the Digital Age” in 2009.  The PDF report can be found at http://projectinfolit.org/pdfs/PIL_Fall2009_Year1Report_12_2009.pdf.

What makes this report interesting is that the group also try to dig deeper on how students developed their strategy in their information needs both for their course-related works and everyday life. In general, the students use course readings, library resources, and things like Google and Wikipedia when conducting course-related research. They tend to use Google, Wikipedia, and friends when it came to everyday life research.

One of the findings is that students tend use the course readings first for their course-related research.  This seems a no brainer to me. After all, the faculty is their “first contact” in the courses they take.

The report also suggests the differences between the guides that librarians provided and the strategy employed by the students. “All in all, the librarian approach is one based by thoroughness, while the student approach is based on efficiency.” (page 20.)  This seems to line up nicely with what Roy Tennant wrote many years ago that  “only librarians like to search; everyone else like to find.” (Digital Libraries – Avoiding Unintended Consequences,  http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA156524.html)

As a side note, I’m curious about the time and effort on researches being done in learning students information seeking behavior. Public Services librarians seem to understand this already based on their interaction with the students. Interestingly enough, most of library collection decisions are based on faculty research needs. So, I wonder how the familiarity of the resources affects the faculty’s decision in constructing their course readings and whether it might also affect the student behavior in their information seeking.

All in all, this is their ultimate conclusion:

This is our ultimate conclusion: Todayʼs students are not naïve about sources, systems, and services. They have developed sophisticated information problem-solving strategies that help them to meet their school and everyday needs, as they arise.

The report came up with several recommendations and one of them gave me a pause:

We have come to believe that many students see instructors—not librarians—as coaches on how to consult research. This situation seems to occur whether the faculty may qualify as expert researchers in the area of student research methods, or not. Librarians and faculty should see the librarian-student disconnect as a timely opportunity, especially when it comes to transferring information competencies to students.
We recommend librarians take an active role and initiate the dialogue with faculty to close a divide that may be growing between them and faculty and between them and students—each campus is likely to be different. There are, of course, many ways to initiate this conversation that some libraries may already have in use, such as librarian-faculty roundtables, faculty visits, faculty liaison programs, and customized pathfinders to curriculum, to name but a few. And there is always room for creating new ways to facilitate conversation between faculty and librarians, too. No matter what the means of communication may be, however, librarians need to actively identify opportunities for training faculty as conduits for reaching students with sound and current information-seeking strategies, as it applies to their organizational settings.
Personally, I have no objection with the recommendation above. After all, that’s why we (the librarians) are here for. However, the recommendation above basically takes for granted that narrowing or closing the librarian-student disconnect would actually improve the outcome of the students research. Or, in other words, nowhere in the report indicated that this disconnect bring “harms” to the students outcome. It would be nice to see some kind of assessments on this.

CLIR publication: No Brief Candle: Reconceiving Research Libraries for the 21st Century

Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) invited about 25 individuals on February 2008 and had discussion with topic “How should we be rethinking the research library in a swiftly changing information landscape?”  It then published a report in August 2008 titled No Brief Candle: Reconceiving Research Libraries for the 21st Century.

This report contains “…a series of provocative essays, the proceedings of a lively and informed symposium earlier this year in Washington, and a set of recommendations extrapolated from both. While several of the subject headings are familiar—scholarly communication, peer review, preservation of data, and e-science—the conclusions and recommendations are not. The consensus derived from these efforts was unambiguous in calling for more aggressive intervention to better structure and manage the challenges we face.”

The report comes in two version: HTML and PDF (81 pages).  The first part contains the summary of the meeting and the recommendations, which you can read at http://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub142/part1.html

I am very interested in the recommendation no.4, “Institutions need to support environments, within and external to libraries, that not only promote but demand change. More funds should be allocated for experimental projects and new approaches; staff with nontraditional or new areas of expertise must be hired.”  It fits nicely with my thinking that we need more staff to do research and development.  Yeah, any opinion/suggestion/conclusion that match with my opinion is always a good opinion/suggestion/conclusion. ;-)   The reality is, of course, no library should hire staff with nontraditional or new areas of expertise unless it is ready to support such staff (human resource and working infrastructure.)

I also support the recommendation no. 8, “Institutions should use studio and design experiences as the basis of a new library school curriculum. Students of library and information sciences should learn to participate in the design and delivery of information resources that serve the scholarly community. Academic librarians should be engaged in the process through project provision and supervision.”

to tag or not to tag

I was reading my Google Reader and Jonathan Rochkin’s Tagging and motivation in library catalog? post caught my attention. He asked about the “why” of tagging, the motivation that drive people to tag. He asked “Why would a user spend their valuable time adding tags to books in your library catalog?”

I have the same question as well, for I still don’t really grasp the social implication of tagging, aside from whatever stuff Dave Weinberger said on his ‘Everything is Miscellaneous’ blog on tagging.

Back to library catalog tagging: if I were a student and found a useful resource for my course, then I probably would tag it with my course number and the topic of the paper my professor assigned to me. That would make it easier for me to find that resource again. If my classmates did the same thing, then I could get a list of resources for my paper.

However, I probably would use the catalog as an “on demand” activity. That is, I would use the library catalog as needed and if I find a resource suitable for my paper, I want to get it right away and prefer none of my classmates find out about it. Chances are, my classmates would do the same thing. Tagging almost becomes a moot point.

OK. This doesn’t help. Sorry.

This might be different if I did a group project. Each of us could tag resources that would be useful for our project. We could have a list of resources that can be listed on our project report. That tagging collaboration would still be a short-live activity, however.

Personally, I found out that I am not really into the tagging thingy. I reviewed my delicious list and realized that my tags are actually the reflection of the content of the site, not the “why”. If I tag them by the “why”, most of them would probably tagged as “cool application” or “interesting stuff.” Or “the site mentioned by Tim O’Reilly because I follow his blog and, by the way, it is indeed an interesting stuff.”



WorldWideScience.org is a collaborated effort that allow scientists to do search on national and international databases. It was developed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Scientific and Technical Information in partnership with the British Library and other sources.

Pretty cool effort, considering they have to deal with various databases with different metadata, database structure, and search syntax.

I tried it out by using my usual dorky word search, “java”, because I always curious how a system would distinguish it between java programming language, java island, javanese people, java language (yes, the language of javanese), and, of course, java coffee.

Well, not much happening on the search result. You will get a list of results supposedly based on a relevancy and no clear categorization. However, I suppose the scientists will  probably use more specific search terms and can expect to get a more precise results.

Using wildcard (*) works, as well as boolean search.

Which Books – choose ’em based on yer mood



Neat stuff, actually.

You click the mood and it will allow you to adjust a dial from, say, “Happy” to “Sad.” Made think, if you put the dial close to happy, how would you call it? “Not So Happy”? “Not Sad and Rather Happy”? I think I’m in the mood of reading something silly. But, yeah, “silly” is relative and it’s not one of the choices.

When you get list of books, you don’t see the typical catalog results from many of the library catalogs. No call number, no location. Just titles, author, a review, and snippet of text, if available. Once you’re interested in a book, you click the Borrow button and the system will ask you which library you’re associate it and take you to its catalog system.

I don’t know if they ask the affiliate library because they don’t recognize my IP address or it’s the system’s default (I am, after all, getting spoiled by WorldCat.) I also don’t know what would happen if the book I’m interested in is not available from the local library. I suppose they would do an automatic Interlibrary Loan. I hope so.

The book collection was jointly developed by public libraries from England, Wales, and Scotland. You can view the collection, but you, of course, have to have their library card to borrow the book.