Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Outrage at Not Being Able to Find Something

ornamental magnolia (sweet bay? swamp?), on campus after rain

I've been thinking about how the process that librarians and others have labored over for many years -- how to find stuff -- is now as natural as breathing for many people.

...Or is it that simple? My perceptions may be skewed by the undergraduates I encounter at the community college: If something is hidden from a google search, it's too obscure to bother with. The idea that there is a process associated with searching for information is typically greeted with hostility. (Of course there are also atypical students who are surprised and interested to learn about it.)

If students are really stuck, sometimes they resign themselves to listening to me, but I notice that the news about a process associated with finding information seems to induce eye-rolling rather than alacrity. Common barriers to access are greeted with incomprehension (and sometimes apoplectic frustration). This goes beyond youthful impatience, and I'm still learning how to cope with this wall of refusal to stop and think about how to find needed information when standard practice seems to be 1) google, 2) if it doesn't appear, conclude it must not be there, so 3) student is off the hook because she/he tried (unless the prof decides to be a big jerk).

All this is probably because research is boring work to a lot of people. Not only is the end result of research more work, in the form of reading and study, but when someone wants to find out about X, they're thinking about X rather than the information ecosystem surrounding X. Luckily that's where librarians come in...

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