Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Librarians: Masters of the info universe

Librarians, information specialists, knowledge managers or whatever title a librarian might have -- their skills are in high demand. And, though you might not know it, they are everywhere.
And so in their honor during National Library Week, we enjoy the following tidbits of information.
Famous people who were librarians
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, Casanova, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, former first lady Laura Bush and China's Mao Zedong. At one point in their lives, each of them either worked as librarian or in a library.
Librarians are techno-savvy
Librarians don't just use books anymore. Searching through tweets, blogs, podcasts, websites and more to find accurate and authoritative information has become more the rule than the exception.
At a time where anyone can Google just about anything, librarians don't just find information, they find the correct information -- and fast. The American Library Association reports reference librarians in the nation's public and academic libraries answered nearly 5.7 million questions each week in 2010.
Filmmaker's library
Even "Star Wars" creator George Lucas has his own research library on his Skywalker Ranch. Lucas started the library in 1978, and the collection is housed under a large stained-glass dome.
Librarians influence our culture and society
While clearing out old archives at the Palmer Theological Seminary in 2005, librarian Heather Carbo found a working manuscript of one of Beethoven's final compositions.
Librarians track spy info and classified intelligence
When the CIA needs to provide information to the U.S. president, they turn to their librarians. To become one of the U.S. intelligence's community research experts, a librarian must pass medical and psychological exams, polygraph interviews and clear extensive background investigations.
Librarians are heroic
Alia Muhammad Baker, the chief librarian of Basra, Iraq, removed 30,000 books from the city's main library before it was destroyed during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Their numbers are many
In 2009, there were 206,000 librarians, 50,000 library technicians and 96,000 other education, training and library workers
Librarians are behind the scenes in current events
-- Federal government shutdown. Lawmakers go to the Congressional Research Service, a division of the Library of Congress, for information.
-- The royal wedding at Westminster Abbey. The Abbey's Library and Muniment Room has a historic collection of books, manuscripts and archival material.
-- NATO no-fly zone over Libya. NATO's Brussels Headquarters houses a multimedia library with a collection focusing on international relations, security and defense, military questions and world affairs.
Warning to readers about librarians
A character in "The Callahan Touch", one of science fiction writer Spider Robinson's books, said, "Librarians are the secret masters of the universe. They control information. Never piss one off."

Monday, May 06, 2013

The World Wide Web vs The Library

On the surface, the Internet may seem like a large database of information that can be compared to a library. The Internet does contain much information, and the Internet is up to date. However, Library Information Studies, hereafter referred to as LIS, is a scholarly field that grounds itself in logical organization of and ease of access to information. Compared to LIS, the Internet falls short to a great extent. The most evident of these shortcomings are cataloguing and accuracy (Descy, 1997).

A library has a very systematic way in which information is catalogued to enable searchers to locate the desired information. The information is organized and categorized under the Library of Congress or Dewey Decimal System and is recognized by scholars worldwide (Dennis & Harrington, 1990). The Web, on the other hand, has no system for consistency. Different search engines such as Yahoo, Infoseek, and Webcrawler add information to their databases in different ways. When a search string is entered into these databases, different results are derived depending on the search engine that is utilized. Descy (1997) conducted a search for "educational technology" in the three search engines mentioned above. Yahoo returned no matches, Infoseek returned the "best 100 matches", and Webcrawler produced 87,987 matches. The resulting information was very different.

Accuracy is another area where the Internet information and library information are dissimilar. Before information reaches a library, it is filtered in three ways: (a) it is written and/or issued by an authoritative source such as the federal government or a reliable organization; (b) it is authenticated as part of an editorial or peer review process by a publisher; or (c) it is evaluated by experts, reviewers, or subject specialists/librarians as part of collection development (Brandt, 1996). In a library, the information is then selected, reviewed again, evaluated, and catalogued. The information is selected for specific purposes and specific reasons to be included in a section. Information on the Web has no evaluation criteria. Anyone can publish anything on the Web. It is important that teachers and students do not take information found on the Web at face value. Facts and figures should always be cross-referenced with other resources.

However, the Internet and the Web should not be disregarded as valuable research tools. With proper training and cross-referencing, both can be highly effective and efficient means by which students locate information. As computers are becoming more common in schools and homes, students and teachers are becoming more computer literate and Internet literate.