Monday, February 02, 2009

Searching the literature

It amuses me that the engineering building looks like a church. I'm going to call it the Church of the Engineering from now on. Now for utterly unrelated ramblings...

I ought to have suspected that a general search of LIS literature relating to the internet would be interminable. Since apparently LIS is collectively obsessed with the internet. Come to think of it, most people are obsessed with the internet, but in reading these LIS studies I'm finding that there is a sense of urgency. Everyone is terrified of becoming obsolete, and yet many are clinging to traditional forms and catalogues that require some foreknowledge to use effectively.

Reading these studies is a somewhat disorienting experience, not simply because of their length (though they do make my eyes water from compuer-gazing), but also because I can see myself in their analyses of clueless undergrads engaging with the library catalogue for the first time. Honestly, I've learned more about the intricacies of effective searching in the last few weeks than in the past four years. Nobody claims Carleton had a particularly brilliant library; in fact, I believe the words normally used to describe it are something along the lines of... well, something impolite. (mumble LEARNING COMMONS?!). But I used it, and I'm pretty sure I never used a boolean operator on the catalogue the entire time I was there. Never mind truncation!(In my defense I did employ boolean operators when on the internet). I don't think we ever had an instruction session from a librarian or anything, although it's not clear if that would have helped.

I don't really have a point, other than to say that I think in undergrad I took shelter in the inadequacy of my research. It was a deliberate choice to pick JSTOR and stick to it, only reluctantly using other databases. I never once got an interlibrary loan, nor did I use any journals I could only find in print. Good thing I didn't do a thesis, right? Learning how to actually make use of the wide world of library before me is kind of terrifying, but obviously liberating. My disbelief in the extent of my own library incompetence is mitigated by my recognition that I did it on purpose. I chose to only look in easy ways, and I managed -

But now I'm left with this endless literature search of doom, and I can't fall back on these artificial limits: I feel like I have to find EVERYTHING in order to make up for my past inefficiency. When will it end? How thorough is thorough enough? Gah.


  1. Really, never used boolean for libraries? :O That's definitely something I learned about super early, and definitely applied to both libraries and search engines (I remember when you had to select specific settings for it to understand boolean though, man that was obnoxious!) I'm pretty sure that an elementary school librarian taught people to use boolean too, though I already knew how to thanks to mum.

  2. I definitely learned how to use Boolean early on, but I didn't apply it with very much sophistication on OPACs in undergrad. I followed subject headings more, but Boolean I mostly used on the internet. My degree didn't have a research focus, (both a strength and a weakness to the program in some ways), but it's probably why I managed so well with my laziness.