This is part of a series of Session Notes from grantees who have received Professional Development grants from the Office of Commonwealth Libraries. Each grantee will share their professional development experience and include tips and other resources from the workshop or class. Grantees had their choice of an article for the Compendium, a webinar or a podcast. This project was made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
by Alexandra M. Wilder
For library and information science professionals, the idea that information searching behavior and methods have changed drastically in the “age of Google” is an all-too familiar one. As such, the best way to serve our patrons is to learn as much as we can about those search behaviors and about the databases and websites that will serve our users’ needs most effectively.
In INFO 522: Information Access and Resources, offered by Drexel University, students are taught to build effective search strategies and to become familiar with large scale retrieval systems. With expert guidance from Melissa J. Harvey, I became familiar with ProQuest, LexisNexis, Web of Science and OCLC, as I learned to craft search strategies such as: natural language vs. controlled vocabulary, ranking and relevancy, increasing and decreasing yield, and—of course—search evaluation. In the rich information age that we live in, library and information science professionals are very aware of the need to support patrons in attaining information literacy.
Using search principles including Boolean logic (such as AND, OR, NOT), proximity operators (such as these examples here), truncation, and precision searching vs. full text, I systematically become more comfortable with a number of different databases and how best to navigate them. Though the course did not delve too deeply into database construction, there was enough information provided to create a very helpful sense of context for me as I performed various searches.
Though some databases feel easier to use than others (ahem, Web of Science can be tough!), learning about a few of the major players allowed me to develop tools that I was able to then apply across other retrieval systems.
Toward the end of the course, a friend who was in need of access to scholarly papers outside of the databases provided at her local public library got in touch with me to ask if I knew of any resources I could direct her to online that would not require a pricey subscription for access. Despite the fact that biomedical research is not particularly in my wheelhouse (!), I was able to direct her to helpful sources as a result of my studies with Professor Harvey in INFO 522: Information Access and Resources. It was a particularly gratifying moment!
Even if your work duties do not require you to conduct research or directly assist researchers, developing the skills necessary to conduct effective information retrieval and becoming comfortable with the structure and use of databases and other online resources will serve you well whatever your essential job function may be. Taking this course was a very rewarding experience for me, and one that I highly recommend.