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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Internet Searches: Librarians do it better

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, May 28, 2006



An article was published last week by the Reuters News Agency titled, "Internet searches: Librarians do it better."


That seems like an odd caption in an age of technology.


Reuters placed the title on an article coming from the Medical Library Association's annual meeting.


A librarian at the University of Michigan Cancer Center does the Internet searches for the latest cancer information.


She asked patients and library users to evaluate the information that the librarian provided.


The results of those evaluations found that 65 percent of the patients had not been able to obtain the information themselves.


They were also not able to retrieve the information from the Internet.


Nor was the same information found by the librarian available from a healthcare provider, or from a cancer organization.


An additional 30 percent of library visitors said the librarian found new information not found by the patient or library user on their own.


This would agree with our experiences in our public library system.


We find that people want to use the Internet, and identify it as a source of current information.


Internet users all have their own "favorite" search tool, but use only a small portion of its capabilities.


The average Internet user either enters search terms that are too broad, or too specific.


That results in millions of "hits," or no hits at all.


So, why will the assistance of a librarian be helpful and provide value-added information to your Internet search?


Librarians organize thoughts in a structured manner, and can dissect information into parts for a search.


We do searches every day, and work in an environment where Internet searching is openly discussed and shared with each other.


In addition, librarians are more familiar with library collections and what is available.


Beyond the Internet, most libraries have access to commercial and shared databases that have a better quality of information than the Internet.


Librarians are most familiar with their print collections that are rich in information, and likely better structured and organized than the Internet.


The biggest difference that a librarian can offer the information search is the ability to interpret and separate data.


The Internet has forced the average person to evaluate information that was formerly sorted by an editor before being published in print.


Now, anyone anywhere can post "information" to the Internet and you have to interpret it.


It may be time to become a friend of a librarian; your information future may depend on it.


You have 80 friends at the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.