Tuesday, April 1, 2008

on not doing the dumb stuff

Session: Reference In the Age of Google
Speaker: Joe Janes, Information School, University of Washington

(I think I'm just going to type out my notes and I might polish the entry later.--kk)

Reference saves the money of the individual.
Reference saves the time of the individual.

While we often make the argument for the first, we do not highlight the second.

Quote from the mid-40s about reference: "Ensures the possession of facts which by themselves they cannot obtain."

Google is good at searching for the specific; it is the "rough equivalent" of ready reference. Google gets 700-800 million hits a day. Google means, "You don't have to do the dumb stuff any more."

Google is "free, quick, easy, good enough." That is not what we are. We cannot be freer, quicker, easier ... so we have to be better.

Google is changing how people think about searching and how they are thinking about information. Thinking about information differently means people are thinking differently. This is turn changes the way people view the world.

Things Google does not do (well) (yet): gathering, evaluating, deciding, understanding, helping, and providing depth and accuracy. Google also does not offer a highly sophisticated search, nor is it part of a community.

Where do we fit?

The reference interview is done about 50 percent of the time. We should try asking:
  • Can you tell me more?
  • Was that what you wanted?
  • Are you looking for anything specific?
Janes quoted (to much laughter), "They will choke and die before telling you what they want."

He then pointed out some Google searching tricks:
  • OR
  • * (wild card)
  • inurl:
  • filetype:
  • view:timeline
  • GooFresh (added today)
We do a poor job of telling people what we can do. We need to simplify the language we use.

The average search time is 11 minutes.

When Janes said the following it really resonated with me, so much so, I'm going to type it more than once:

People ask you reference questions because they have failed.
People ask you reference questions because they have failed.
People ask you reference questions because they have failed.

We need to make ourselves (and the ref desk) less frightening.

People live in lots of different places at once. We've got to be there.

Janes said most of us got into this business for one of two roles: the social worker and the treasure hunter. I'm a little of both, but I probably am in it mostly to help folks. Whatever our reasons, he challenged us to re-energize and re-engage our reasons for becoming librarians.

Janes said, "We are made for better things." We provide quality, instruction, depth, literacy, and (unlike Google) we are based in our clientèle.

He added, "We can put all these things together better than anyone else." We connect them with information that can change their lives.

Our traditional strengths:
  • service
  • determining/understanding context
  • knowing when to stop
  • evaluation
We have to be better online. We need to extend the notion of the library. "The library has to be somewhere and everywhere."
I left the session wanting to provide reference. I'm going to try to make it my goal to ask "Can you tell me more? Was that what you wanted? Are you looking for anything specific?" when on the desk.


Telesa said...

Thank you for the summary. I always appreciate anything Janes has to say. Maybe someday I will meet him in person. :)

hood_and_hat said...

I mentioned in my conference report that maybe QL could bring him in for a Director's Talk. It's probably a long shot since he's such a library superstar.

Myra Shirey said...

good work..!!!
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