26 June, 2006

ADHD guide to online research. part one

As a librarian I spend a lot of time doing (what we in the business call) reference work. Now this is something which I do quite well, but it is entirely possible that had I attempted to become a librarian forty years ago I would have been unsuccessful due to being an unfertilised egg.

Although, had I been born and qualified and a librarian in that time (lets call it the 60s) I may well have had a much harder time. As the ADHD librarian I am well suited to the current crop of reference resources. Some (all) of my co-workers might not quite understand my methodology, but I'm going to give it to you.
Firstly, it important for you to realise that many, many people come into the library looking for a book on Penguin Farming. I then suggest they try the Net and am shot down in flames, because they "have the internets at home" and have "already tried it and there is nothing".

My instinct then is to abuse them and scream incoherently about the superiority of librarians and how I went to uni to study this and you think that just because you can boot up Google you can do my freeking job. But there's no point, because they think my job is to stamp date due dates onto books and the abuse that I'd have to muster in order to point out that my job is about information in any form, well it's just too hard. But I soldier on and tell them that their query is too specialised for our small library and I might give the Net another try.

Now these folk have tried Google and failed, so where would I start looking? Google, it isn't the best research tool but it's the best for me and you in most situations. And if it isn't the best, but you get the information you wanted, do you care?
It is quick and dirty and at first so are my search results, but if you add a bit of Boolean Logic (which for you playing at home means you use the advanced search) then you soon find something. Now that something may not be what they want, but it might give me a clue. What people want and what I hear are two different things and while people will swear till they are blue in the face that theirs is the only spelling or only name for the think they want it often turns out that they know a lot less than they wanted to admit.

So, to get this 'quick and dirty' search happening I use Firefox as my browser. It isn't about hating Microsoft (although that's a pretty good reason) it is about how I can set up Firefox. Tabbed browsing and a customisable search box built in to the browser means I'm not spending all my time pressing the back button. I have Google, Wikipedia, Google AU, Google UK, Google images, IMDB, Amazon... all ready to go.
Having a mouse with the ability to middle click is fantastic too. I set this up to open in new tab and so from my first search page I can get results loading and come back to them. Keep searching, change your search terms or your search engine then see what you've got in your tabs.

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