Effective and efficient searching (Portable MLIS, ch. 11)

Librarians must evaluate daily the findability, usability, and reliability of “a huge range” of information sources, says Weedman (2008, p. 113). I like her use of the word “document” to mean “all media that contain information,” including visual, audio, digital, and print media (p. 114). These are the documents within a library’s collection and those found through internet searches.

Now I know how designing a system is different from designing a collection. A system is not only about the documents, it is about designing storage and retrieval systems as well. It is about training my students to become skilled searchers of information, how to determine which sources are relevant out of the list of sources retrieved, and how to search within a website to see whether it is a credible source for academic research (this was well done in the pre-residency modules for this course).

I consider myself a skilled, patient, and thorough searcher, but it can still be overwhelming to consider having to learn the controlled and specialized vocabularies used in classification systems—such as subject headings in Library of Congress and Dewey systems, different search strategies and algorithms used by Google versus Yahoo, and emerging forms of social tagging on sites like Flickr. I am quite observant as to which keywords and synonyms may work, “how language is being used and how topics are combined” (p 122), and I know how to find sources using Boolean searches and the “pearl” technique mentioned in this course’s pre-residency module on searching. I do not, however, know how to search the inverted file for a database (p. 122). Yikes!

At this point in my life, thorough searches often take so much time that I feel I am no longer searching efficiently. However, I am confident that my MSLIS training and years of practice as a librarian will make me an excellent professional searcher and finder for my users and for myself.

Weedman, J. (2008). Information retrieval” Designing, querying, and evaluating information systems. In K. Haycock & B. E. Sheldon (Eds.), The portable MLIS: Insights from the experts (pp. 87-97). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

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