Psychology and Education @St. Thomas

April 10, 2013

Why can Librarians Find Stuff that Other People Don’t?

Filed under: Libraries and Librarians,Research Techniques — merriealynn @ 7:48 pm

Yesterday, I gave a talk to several librarians. I’ve often wondered why I can often find articles, books, information, videos when my students don’t. What’s so special about librarians?

I came up with 7 different advantages we have over regular folks. I forgot the last one, that happens because of our personalities and/or because of the 7 advantages we have: we’re obsessive; we never give up.

who needs a doctor when you have webmd obsessvie_librarian

But here are the 7:

  1. Students are panicked! We’re not. We can still think, while their minds are buzzing with so many thoughts, many of which are about the dire consequences of not finishing their paper in time.
    What have I done!?
  2. We know how information is organized in a library. All the terminology on our websites makes sense to us. We know what a library does, so we know what to look for.
    For instance, we know that libraries generally have guides that point out the most important resources for each field of study. There are several names for these (subject guides, research guides, lib guides and an older term pathfinders), but we know what lies behind those names. Students don’t even know to look for such guides.
  3. Databases are fun! (for us). Not necessarily for other people. We just love to play with websites and databases, just to see what they might do differently than all the other databases (100’s) that we’ve played with.
    Other folks just want to use the databases to find the information they need. And they’ve only used 2 or 3 databases in their lives. So, not so intuitive to them.
  4. We know how research is done (at least in our specialty fields). In the Social Sciences, you can’t answer huge questions with a single experiment or study. Research studies don’t answer the question “How do children learn?” They answer the question, “How do 2 year olds learn to use paintbrushes through imitation?”toddlertoolsBroader questions are usually answered by faculty who have already been tenured and are synthesizing their lifetime of research in a book, not an article.
  5. An answer to us is not necessarily an answer for students.
    Often students want a definite answer, with a number attached. Science doesn’t give definite answers. All science is specific to the context of the research and subject to change when deeper information is found.
  6. We understand the levels of analysis of the different research tools we use. You don’t look for article titles in catalogs. You don’t look for topic sentences in subject guides.
    Databases differ from each other. You don’t look for industrial psychology in MergentOnline (a business database).
    Summon is helping us with this.
  7. Finally, librarians love to share what they’ve found with other librarians! Our colleagues in our libraries, universities, on the Internet, our associations spend lots of energy helping each other. We are the coolest OpenAccess/OpenData people alive.

And we took this position because we love research, learning, and guiding other people to the enormous amount of information we can find. And helping them analyze and evaluate, plan their future research, and find fun reading to do during their breaks!librarianheart


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