Article Summary #5: Discovery and Literacy

Revelations from the Literature: How Web-Scale Discovery Has Already Changed Us

The author of this article looked at library literature to see what librarians are saying about discovery tools. Her findings show that this is a hot topic among librarians. The students’ desires for Google type searching rather than advanced search techniques, the desire to make it easy, drives this push for a simple one box search. But is that the answer to teaching information literacy? It does not appear to be “the” answer. Studies are showing that while a discovery search system does increase overall exposure to the library’s collections, but a decrease in the use of specialized subject databases. Students still need instruction, about the discovery tool and about advanced searching, subject guides, and interlibrary loan. If the student only uses the discovery tool, they are faced with the same limitations as a Google search. They get too many irrelevant hits and do not know how to limit their searches, and the tool does not access all of the relevant resources. In this sense, the discovery tool could become an obstacle to the overarching goal of information literacy.

Discovery tools are changing rapidly. They “affect every facet of library services, from electronic resource committees, which evaluate and choose different services, to the IT department, which deals with installation and troubleshooting of the software, to cataloging, which integrates the discovery tool to index library holdings records, to public services, which connect the patrons to using the services effectively.”

I think we as librarians need to use every resource we can to connect our patrons to the information they need, but we cannot forget that information literacy is also a goal. Getting students to use the system is important. Teaching students to use a system wisely, to evaluate information, to find the best information, is at least as important.

 

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