Must Read Library Blog: Library Babel Fish

Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that I pay quite close attention to the InsideHigherEd web magazine. They cover lots of library issues and issues that are relevant to libraries, their blog network is pretty good with solid coverage of higher education issues and Joshua Kim's instructional technology blog covers a lot of ground, much of which is of interest for the library community.

Unfortunately, they've never had a very good blog by a librarian. Until now. (They did make an attempt at a library blog about a year ago. We will not speak of it anymore.)

Go check out the brand new Library Babel Fish: A college librarian's take on technology by Barbara Fister. For those that don't follow the library biz too closely, Barbara Fister is one of the best commentators out there on a variety of library issues, both at blogs and in professional publications. And don't forget Friendfeed.

Let's have a taste from the first two posts.

In the Library of Babel

Libraries are in a weird state of flux these days. On the one hand, they continue to have their traditional role in preserving culture; on the other, they change constantly. If you thought you finally grasped the fine points of searching a particular database, think again; its interface was probably "improved" in the past week. Feel comfortable finding your way around the Web site? Must be time for a redesign. To use a library is to wade into a stream of change. It's never the same twice - yet we look to libraries for continuity, for coherence, for an opportunity to exit the fast lane and coast into a more contemplative state of mind.

However contested its nature, one thing the academic library continues to be is the common ground for its institution. It's the one place on campus, both in its virtual and traditional forms, where all the disciplines mingle, where ownership is shared, where ideas are meant to collide and quibble and procreate. It's an organized free-for-all where students and faculty can interact with ideas, drink coffee, check a reference, check Facebook, take a nap, or make a breakthrough.

Assignments: Being Clear about What Matters

All of this is particularly interesting in view of what the research project had previously found about students and their research habits. They pore over the assignment, trying to interpret what the instructor wants; virtually all students use the Web for resources, and nearly all use library databases, but not many go to the library shelves. They avoid being overwhelmed by options by using the same databases for most of their research needs, whether or not it's appropriate for the discipline or not. And for the most part, they don't turn to librarians for help, except when looking for search terms; librarians turn out to be a kind of babel fish for scholarly discourse. Though in interviews, faculty described the ways the librarians provided support for their students, the vast majority did not mention librarians as a resource in their assignments.

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