Sunday, October 17, 2010

Interview With Thomas Mann

Snicked from, Joshua Kitlas interviews Thomas Mann.

"I would like to see [reference] change in the way it’s taught. My impression is that the way it’s taught is how to think critically about websites. There’ a lost more to it than that. For one thing, we need to do a lot better job in telling people about the amazing range of sources that aren’t on the open Internet to begin with.

It usually involves looking in so many more places than one. Library of Congress Subject Headings are critical ñ what are the terms that are best suited for searching the source you’re ñ controlled headings and descriptors, or uncontrolled keywords? There’s an enormous difference between subject and keyword search–and citation searches or browsing the stacks or using bibliographies or talking to people. Each will show you something different. Changing the search technique
changes what you see in the results."

"The profession is radically getting dumbed down. There is so much more to search than Google or OCLC. You need to see relationships between subjects and their headings. Tags by users are simply no substitute. They’re okay as supplements to
controlled vocabularies but not substitutes. There’s a need to go beyond the internet and look at the systems librarians and publishers have developed that are not accessible by Google or the other engines."

Agreed. Every Friday in my reference class, we have an exercise which involves answering a series of questions using books the teacher has selected for us - Ulrich's Guide, Encyclopedia indexes, directories, whatever's useful for whatever type of reference question we're looking up - and you can only get so far with the internet, even including the e-journals and other resources we students get access to from the Learning Resource Center's site. (I was so happy to discover full-text New York Times articles I could look up at any time without registering and paying!) Some things you can look up; it's also useful for filling in little blanks in information to guide you to which print resources you need to look into.

Just this Friday, a group of students were passing reference books around and looking up our reference questions and one said, "I didn't even know any of these books existed." Most of us didn't. We're new! And most people never will, since they're not taking librarian courses, so it's up to librarians to help them. And that is pretty cool. I geek out just thinking of how much information I have access to now that I'm learning where to look, and how wonderful libraries are, and and and... neat!

In any case, I think Mann would approve of the methods taught by my reference instructor. I intend to read more stuff from this guy.


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