Evaluation Skills for an Evolving Information Ecosphere

By Devar, Georgina | Online Searcher, May-June 2019 | Go to article overview

Evaluation Skills for an Evolving Information Ecosphere


Devar, Georgina, Online Searcher


Evaluation has always been a recognized skill for librarians, an ability integral to information literacy and critical thinking. Creating a collection of trusted materials is a fundamental pillar of librarianship. In today's evolving information ecosphere, the challenges of evaluating information found on the internet and even, to some extent, offered by publishers, government agencies, and other info-centric sources become ever more important as a core competency.

Whether it's for students, faculty, parents, voters, businesspeople, scientists, medical professionals, or the general public, it's the job of the information professional to evaluate what the library offers them and to help them evaluate information they find outside the library's domain.

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines "evaluate" as "to judge or calculate the quality, importance, amount, or value of something" (dictionary. cambridge.org/dictionary/english/evaluate).

Dictionary.com contributes two possibilities in its definition:

1. to determine or set the value or amount of; appraise: to evaluate property.

2. to judge or determine the significance, worth, or quality of; assess: to evaluate the results of an experiment.

How do these definitions apply to information professionals? Appraisal of property or material goods is more the job for a Realtor or personal property appraiser than an information professional. We're not likely to show up as the experts in an episode of Antiques Roadshow. But assessing quality is something at which we should excel, although evaluating experimental results might be more the job of scientists than librarians.

EVALUATION ACRONYMS

Traditionally, evaluating resources has relied on variations on the mantra of credibility, authority, timeliness, and accuracy. Here are just some of the acronyms, many of them quite catchy, used to describe evaluation criteria:

* CRAAP--Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose

* PAC--Purpose, Authorship, Content

* RADCAB--Relevancy, Appropriateness, Detail, Currency, Authority, Bias

* RADAR--Relevancy, Authority, Date, Appearance, Reason

* CABIN--Currency, Authority, Bias, Informative (content), Navigation

* SPAT--Site, Publisher, Audience, Timeliness

* RatTRAP--Timeliness, Reliability, Authority, Purpose

These acronyms, mainly developed by librarians working in academic and school environments, work very well for scholarly literature, the trade press, popular magazines, and newspapers. They can also be used to assess the value of market research reports and white papers. Applied to websites, the evaluation points can usually, but not always, be applied. The opaqueness of source data can complicate the effort, as can the recognition of bias.

Today's information ecosphere extends the availability of information well beyond traditional types of resources. What about evaluation of research data, visual images, videos, statistical information, or business data? Social media is under extreme scrutiny for inundating people with misleading information. How do information professionals evaluate search engines for the open web? Do we even think to evaluate web search engines or do we "just Google" what we want to know?

Where, exactly, in our professional lives do information professionals apply evaluation skills? Is it collection development, resource allocation, research data consulting, answers to reference questions, consultations with students/faculty/clients/customers, or something else? Does where we apply our skills affect how we practice our evaluation skills?

COLLECTION DEVELOPMENT

For collection development, timeliness may be more important in some disciplines than others. A travel book published 20 years ago is a prime candidate for weeding, but literacy criticism could still be important even if published decades earlier. …

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