Reference: The Missing Link in Discovery – Q/A from Webinar

Last week LJ and Credo Reference sponsored the webinar, Reference: The Missing Link in Discovery.  I had the pleasure of presenting at the webinar with Joe Janes from the University of Washington.  The archive of the webinar is available on the LJ site.

Several questions were asked by participants which Joe and I could not answer live.  Those questions, and answers, are below.  We welcome your comments and further discussion on the future of reference.

Q: In the past, the source or container, added a great deal to the context. No longer important?

A: very important, and in fact that’s one of the things I stress to my students, that context makes a big difference.  To us.  Most people, in most situations, don’t really care about that, which is why the content is of more interest.  We’re context people, though, and our institutions represent that, so it’s something we have to be continually aware of and promote when we can. [Joe Janes]

Q: Texting, social networking, blogs – students are using these, but are they seeking information in these sites?

A: A good question, and I’m not sure anybody really knows.  Many libraries have tried making Facebook pages, friending students, and vice versa, but I think the response has been pretty mixed.  Students are certainly *there*, and they must have information needs and queries while there are, but whether they are using these tools to *do* information work is an unanswered–though very important–question.  Why not do a little investigation on your campus and then let everybody else know what you found?  🙂 [Joe Janes]

Q: Joe, you mentioned that we can use the students’ procrastination as an opportunity to help them, meet them where they are. How can we get them to even a short seminar on how to find information in the enth hour if they are already in the enth hour? Or, do you mean, providing them with some type of class or seminar on how to research at the last minute beforehand? hope my question makes sense.

A: It does indeed.  This seems like a real opportunity to be mercenary:  they’ve got papers due in short order and need help, we have help to offer, and the only way that help will be accepted is if it’s on their terms.  If we offered, say, late-evening or weekend sessions on “what to do when your paper is due in 72 hours (or less)”, in exactly those terms, pitched at how to do a decent job, I think there would be response to that.  It’s no good sniffing at them because they’re not working the way *we* did…because there are lot more players in the game these days.  Be where they are, help in the ways they want to be helped, and see what happens.  Worth a try! [Joe Janes]

Q: I’ve found that students are very willing to use a print copy of a reference book if I can walk right to it and hand it to them. If I have to look too hard for it, they get anxious. They sometimes seem to prefer print to e-content for reference. Any thoughts there? I think the profs scare them off e-reference sources. How much do Information Science students these days learn a print collection by LC number so they can ‘surf’ it easily?

A: I agree, many of my students would prefer the print to the electronic copy.  But, only those who come into my library and get assistance from the desk.  Print is nearly useless for virtual reference and for most of my instruction (90%) done outside of the library.  Those who use the electronic typically email the content, and my guess is they probably print it later.  The only students I encounter that know LC numbers are from music and the medical school.  There’s not much browsing going on in the stacks, usually only hunting for known items.  I’m not sure about the IS students.  In theory, they are supposed to learn the classification systems, so one would think they could walk to the M’s and expect to find music books, but given many are tech savvy they probably like to search online for reference content just as much as the next person.  [Sue Polanka]

Q: Sue: Could you say a bit more about putting the Reader’s Guide for Sage E-Ref. books into the catalog record for the titles. Would this be a link to the readers guide, or do you mean putting the topics from the Reader’s Guides into a contents field (or some other field)?

A: Each SAGE Reference title has a readers guide at the beginning that organizes the content of the book by themes/topics.  The actual content of this readers guide, the words, could be placed in the notes field of
the MARC record.  It would not necessarily be a link to the reader’s guide (but I guess it could be if you had the content online and the readers guide had a persistent url), but rather a list of the 25 – 50 readers guide themes/topics in the notes field that could be searched in the online catalog to make the content more discoverable. [Sue Polanka]

Q: Is there a fee for libraries to create a mobile application?

A: Yes, any smartphone application must be developed/programmed by an institution and as a result, will have costs.  If you have programmers on staff who can do this type of work, then the cost is staff time.  Otherwise, you would need to pay someone for this service.  The very flashy corporate apps can run about $50,000 – 100,000.  Several library vendors are starting to come out with catalog apps for the library, ones you can pay a smaller fee ($1000 a year) and have access to your online catalog on the iPhone for example. [Sue Polanka]

One thought on “Reference: The Missing Link in Discovery – Q/A from Webinar”

  1. This was an excellent webinar. Your comments about how the discovery revolution has completely overlooked reference materials was right on target. I was sitting at the other end of the electronic string going “Amen! Amen!”

    We’ve implemented Serials Solutions Summon and love it, but the one hole in coverage is reference sources. We have hundreds of awesome electronic reference sources and our students rarely find them unless we point them out in class or one on one.

    Access to this important background information for research must be integrated!

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