Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Risks and Discovery

When I go out to dinner or drinks or even a movie with my friends, it seems that someone has to pull out their iPhone or other internet capable device to either get directions, find a review, answer a text, answer an email, or something else along those lines. Granted the whole directions thing is awesome and putting aside the rudeness of talking/texting/emailing while eating dinner, I miss the days when you could sit at a bar with friends, make up a random fact about Robert Goulet and no one could Google it to prove you wrong! Honestly!

The wish jar's latest post asked a question that I can't get out of my head: Has the internet stopped us from taking a risk? Kari Smith uses her book buying habits to illustrate this. Before the internet, we had to rely on the book jacket. Now, however, everyone and their aunt Meryl can comment, critique and affect the books we buy.

Though not in an economic situation where buying new books is all that feasable, I have noticed that the internet has also affected the decisions I make in the library and in the used bookstore. And, in all honesty, this fretting hasn't had any noticeable affect on the quality of my reading.

This conversation reminds me of an article I read today (I can't find it now, but I'll keep looking) that mentioned the Web 3.0 world. It postulated that the next step in the development of the internet is going to focus on organizing all of the data and information out there better.

Now we have content, it is time to organize it better.

I wonder what effect this will have on our ability to search?

Discoverablity is the title of a paper, written at the University of Minnesota, that seeks to understand the way patrons are searching. The blog, Lorcan Dempsey's Weblog, has a great summary here so I won't bore you with that.

What struck me was the notion that our patrons are searchers already. They have skills and minds that already think about search terms and keywords. That is no longer the Librarian's special gift. However, it is the librarian's responsibility to guide the users to the right sort of search results. This must change the way we teach our students/patrons about our resources.

If our main way to access the internet is going to be through mobile devices, then how do we step up our game? Helping the people discover things better. Everything needs to be findable and librarians should be able to make that easier, more efficient.

That is what they are trying to do at the UW with Reference Extract. I hope to see more along those lines.


  1. In this case, the Internet has refined our internal decision-making to avoid certain risks. Risk for the sake of risk is not necessarily smart. The Internet should ultimately help us get the information we need so we can take the right risks.

  2. I find electronic devices to be annoying and turn off my iPhone whenever I don't need it. Who wants to have their quiet time with a good cup of coffee I just brewed with my keurig b60 coffee maker interrupted with a phone call or text message?