Magazine article Information Today

Information Seekers

Magazine article Information Today

Information Seekers

Article excerpt

While recovering from minor surgery that turned into major surgery, I had plenty of time for one of my favorite pastimes: reading. I devoured the first six of the Harry Potter books.

Fellow Potter aficionados know that Harry is a Seeker on the Gryffindor Quidditch team. While his fellow players (all riding on brooms) focus on scoring against the other team while keeping their opponents from doing the same, Harry hunts for the Snitch, something that looks like a tiny gold egg with wings and zooms through the air doing all kinds of acrobatic maneuvers. Ultimately, the team who captures the Snitch wins the match.

In many ways, information professionals are a bit like Seekers hunting for the elusive Snitch in the way they seek data. We've become quite adept at searching with new technology, but finding data that's hiding is the real labor of love. The articles I'm highlighting this month from Computers in Libraries, ONLINE, and The CyberSkeptic's Guide to Internet Research all tackle topics that revolve around the search process. In each of the articles, we find new hiding places for data and, best of all, discover new technology to help us in the hunt.

Medical Alerts

When a nurse needs medical information at a bedside, you hope she's not guessing about anything. Happily, she can do a quick but professional search without leaving the patient. PDAs can be just what the doctor ordered.

Although in the case of this Computers in Libraries article "Nurse Refresher Students Get a Hand from Handhelds" (pp. 6-8, 46-48), PDAs are just what the librarian ordered. A former medical librarian, Helen Colevins collaborated on the project and article with Diana Bond and Kathy Clark, two professionals from the nursing program at the Wake Area Health Education Center (AHEC) in Raleigh, N.C.

To help Nurse Refresher students brush up on their skills before returning to the field, the nursing administrators wanted them to carry PDAs so they could look up information as they worked. Colevins was the local medical librarian with the most PDA experience, so she researched, chose, and bought the hand-held computers and appropriate software. She then designed a program that taught the nursing students how to use the PDAs. Informal surveys prove that the students did indeed use the devices. Overall, the collaboration was a good "shot in the arm" for the Nurse Refresher program and proves that all's well that ends well.

Searching for Value-Add

A recent commercial touted the philosophical and actual benefits of a new car: "Life is a journey; enjoy the ride."

There's something to be said for enjoying the ride when it comes to "Assessing Value in the Online Environment" (Searcher, pp. 16-20). Author Jill O'Neill discusses how the perception of value-add has changed over the past 40 years. Because information professionals have required a certain level of performance from fee-based services, vendors have had to provide basic elements, including authoritative collections of unique content; precision search; and navigation, analytical, and information management tools.

Nonprofessional users have different ideas of what constitutes value-add. As O'Neill notes, "The average user most likely won't understand what functionality differentiates the fee-paid resources in a library from a general search tool on the Web. …

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