Monday, June 11, 2007

Librarian Neglect

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh asks the following question at his blog, The Volokh Conspiracy:

A question for law students who wrote law review pieces while in school: When you were doing your research, did you ask your school library's research librarians for help, either on (1) specific matters (e.g., how can I track down this unpublished document?) or on (2) big-picture items (e.g., can you give me some advice about my research plan?)?

If not, why not? If yes, what good advice did they give you? I'm trying to come up with good advice to give to law students about taking advantage (in the best possible sense of the term) of their reference librarians. Thanks!

Most of the responses are, from a librarian perspective, disappointing yet sadly predictable. They range from making limited use of librarians to "I didn't know there were research librarians." A couple respondents even admitted to using Westlaw's 1-800 number instead of asking librarians for help because, as one put it, "I didn't think they could help me in actual research".

While Volokh's thread involves legal research and law libraries, these comments are indicative of the broader problem besetting librarians in general. Many of our users think that everything they need is available via Google, or at least in full-text article databases. If I had a dollar for every time a student told me, "I'm a senior, and this is my first time in the library", I'd need a Swiss bank account by now. Many graduate students and faculty, like those quoted above, think they know all they need to know about research, and don't realize that librarians are there to do more than check out books.

The Internet has not made librarians obsolete. If anything, our skills at finding relevant information and evaluating sources for credibility are more valuable than ever.


Blogger Angel, librarian and educator said...

I think I would need a Swiss Bank account if I got paid on the basis of how often I got that magical statement from seniors. Our profession needs to do so much to educate people about the many skills librarians bring and what they can do for people, and yet, it often seems they worry about such trivial things. I will have to go over and look at the comments over there (on Volokh's blog).

Best, and keep on blogging.

10:43 AM  
Blogger Norma said...

Librarians have made themselves obsolete--first, by not inventing Google, second, by being more interested in influencing Congress and the courts than in helping their clients with research.

12:51 PM  

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