CNET News and the Importance of Librarians
Posted today on CNET’s news.com.com is a great article entitled Most reliable search tool could be your librarian written by Elinor Mills. The title is catchy (it certainly caught my eye) although not quite right in my estimation as I would like it to state boldly “is your librarian” instead of the wimpier “could be your librarian”, but the tag line is perfect:
Web search engines may hustle up quick results, but librarians dig up online information you can trust, say experts.
The article starts with the now infamous example of the white supremacist site about MLK Jr. which consistently ranks in the top 3 results of many search engines when looking for information on Martin Luther King Jr. To the untrained eye this site appears to be a good source of information. [note: I won’t link to the site as I do not want to improve their page rank] In any event, this is one of my favorite examples to use when teaching the importance of evaluating search results and I know many other librarians use this example as well. Hopefully the word will spread about this site, people will stop linking to it and the page rank can be altered. But I have digressed…
Despite my minor semantic quibble over the title, I am very happy to see a well-known techie site publish such an article promoting and validating librarians. What makes this article even better is that they found the perfect people to interview and quote — the biblioblogosphere and librarian search guru crew are well-represented. Here are a few highlights:
“There’s a problem with information illiteracy among people. People find information online and don’t question whether it’s valid or not,” said Chris Sherman, executive editor of industry blog site SearchEngineWatch.com. “I think that’s where librarians are extremely important. They are trained to evaluate the quality of the information.”
“For some people, if the answer isn’t in the first few results it might as well not be there,” said Gary Price, founder and editor of the ResourceShelf blog and director of online resources at Ask.com. “No matter how smart and helpful search engines get, they’re never going to replace librarians.”
“The idea of the 1950s librarian, that’s outdated,” said Sarah Houghton-Jan, information Web services manager at the San Mateo County Library in Northern California. “You find people who are expert at searching the Web and using online tools; high-level information experts instead of someone who just stamps books at the checkout desk.”
And librarian created resources get a good plug as do subscription databases thanks to Gary Price:
A lot of people don’t know that they can get access to much of the walled-off information in specialized databases for free if they have a public library card, said Price, of Ask.com and ResourceShelf.
Other helpful sites are the Librarians Internet Index, which offers quick lists of carefully vetted, reliable Web sites, the Internet Public Library and Infomine, a collection of scholarly resources on the Internet, according to Price.
Consider posting this article your library intranet, staff blog, or bulletin board to remind your staff that although our roles may be changing our skills and abilities are still valued and very much needed (and that sometimes the media get its right).