Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Research is Hard

I probably blew right past Steven Cohen’s blog post on encouraging librarians to avoid teaching Google search strategies. But I did pick it up in his wonderfully titled column in the September/October issue of Public Libraries. [link??]Steven writes the “Internet Spotlight” column, and has two and a half pages on the topic (p. 28-30).

Maybe I am just an old fuddy-duddy. I certainly learned Boolean searching very early in my career. I remember sessions with staff from Dialog, and from the New York Times product. In those days connection speeds were so slow, and the price for connecting was so high that we scripted our searches in advance. It was great practice to think out what exactly you were looking for. I remember the shelves of thesauri at Tucson, Bridgeport, and Wilton. We invested in the thesaurus if we used the database frequently so that we could produce great results.

With the “one box” search solution, I often find myself constrained. This is most often true when looking for a known item. That one simple little box doesn’t offer options. Even the file searching options which are part of Windows are often frustrating when looking for a document produced on a certain date (or set of dates) and in a known format, and with some known key words. I don’t know about your files, but at the moment I have 25,145 files in 1,461 folders occupying 32.0 gigabytes of storage space.

Steven also talks about stemming/truncating. Since I try to be consistent in my naming practices, being able to stem is really important, and not allowed in many of the simple “box search windows.” Go read both items.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the kind words Michael. One statement that I make at presentations to librarians is that if they just use Google and type in one or two keywords for a "hard" reference question, they might as well not do any research.

    Why bother being the middle man for Google...