Get Thyself Out Of the Way

Earlier today, as I was waiting for a meeting to start, I found myself eavesdropping on a group of librarians who were lamenting the fact that the students they served only wanted to use Google. As I listened in on the conversation a couple of things came to mind.

  • First, I thought, why is this conversation going on AGAIN? Aren’t librarians finally at the point where they realize Google is here to stay, we have to accept it, and our job is to figure out ways to help teens use it in the best way possible?
  • Then I thought, are librarians such a judgmental lot? Are we always judging the teens who come into the library and not simply accepting them for who they are? Do we focus too much on what we judge to be the best in materials, searching, etc.? Is this the reason why a conversation on this topic STILL takes place?

Well, maybe I sound judgmental about librarians, but I am always concerned about how successful we are at accepting teens for who they are, and this Google discussion brought it back to me. What if all teen librarians were able to let our judgments take a back seat? Then when a teen walked up to a teen librarian and asked for help on an informational quest we would:

  • Start with a Google search since we know that’s what lots of teens like to use.
  • Venture over to Wikipedia since teens also like that as a research tool and find some possibly useful background information.
  • After a teen said she started her search in Google, smile and say, “I often start there too, what did you find?”

What I’m thinking is, we need to stop having these conversations that focus on getting teens to no longer use the tools they want to use. And, instead, talk about how we can support teens and their informational needs by:

  • Showing an acceptance of the tools they like to use
  • Respecting their use of those tools
  • Visibly showing that acceptance and respect in order to gain teen trust so that when we make a suggestion that perhaps another resource might be a better way to start, that suggestion will be accepted and respected.

We’ll then have a really good chance at being people teens want to ask for research help.

I can be judgmental too. But, I work really hard when I’m serving teens to put my judgments aside and accept the teens for who they are. I know there are lots of librarians who do that. I’d love to find more conversations to eavesdrop on that are from that perspective.

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Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.

6 thoughts on “Get Thyself Out Of the Way”

  1. My question on that is always, “Do YOU use Google?” Of COURSE you do! Does the teen find an answer on Google? If they do, than what is the problem? Are we teaching to our tools, or are we teaching how to find answers. It matters not how the answer is found, as long as it IS found!

    But I’m probably not to be trusted, as I’ve already used Wikipedia at least 3 times today too.

  2. “Visibly showing that acceptance and respect in order to gain teen trust so that when we make a suggestion that perhaps another resource might be a better way to start, that suggestion will be accepted and respected.”

    I think that point is really key. Because teens aren’t stupid–they know when Google isn’t helping them out. They might not know Why, but they know when they’re stumped. And it’s so much more helpful to acknowledge that it was a perfectly reasonable place to start then to get all holier-than-thou and steer someone toward a database or other resource that might not be an intuitive place to start at all.

  3. Librarians (not all of them!) need to stop resisting change, new technology and the evolution of library services.

    People are going to use Wikipedia, whether or not it’s ‘allowed.’ Why not teach them how to use it effectively rather than demonize it and run the risk of them using it anyway without being educated on how to evaluate this popular internet resource?

    As a side note, in 2005, Nature Magazine ran a study* that found Wikipedia to be only slightly less accurate than the online Encyclopedia Britannica — besides, try looking up “American Idol” or “Grey’s Anatomy” in Britannica! (â•¥_─)

    *=Giles, Jim. “Internet encyclopedias go head to head.” Nature 438.7070 (Dec 15, 2005)

  4. *cheers*

    One of the things I talk about in my gaming workshops is that teens want librarians who are STRATEGY GUIDES, not LEVEL BOSSES. Level bosses have more power, resources, and authority, and they withhold it – you have to fight them for it. Strategy guides are helpful, just in time, and act as mentors and partners, sharing information and resources.

    Let’s be strategy guides – get a teen started on a search and then swoop in with hints and tips. If they are using Google, let’s show them how to make it work better for them, just by getting into an advanced search, or limiting results by type of domain, or putting a search in quotes, or using a limiter like NOT.

    Finally, we can show them that new search strategies that work in Google can work in our less than intuitive databases, and stress that not every source has everything you need. Some friends you go to for fashion help, some for relationship advice, and some for music or movie recommendations – it’s a rare friend that can provide ALL of that. Information resources are the same, with different strenghts — and weaknesses.

  5. Someone in my presentation in PA last week recommended an article in the recent issue of School Library Journal, the Google Game. It’s a followup from an article 2 years ago, about engaging students by using their favored search engine.

    Watkins, Katrine. “Return of the Google Game.” School Library Journal. May 2008. http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6555545.html

    Watkins, Katrine & Kathleen Elder. “The Google Game.” School Library Journal, Jaunuary 2006.
    http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6296500.html

  6. I ask my (university-age) students if they use Google. A few raise their hands, sheepishly. I say “I use it all the time!” and they laugh.

    Then I ask how successful their Google searches were, with questions like … how many results did you find? hundreds? thousands? hundreds of thousands? (heh heh) And then .. how long did it take you to find something you could use in your paper? And then … how much did it cost? (highest so far: $50 for one article)

    They start to see that there are hidden costs to using Google, and then I say … it’s not as easy to use library databases (which I start by calling ‘search engines’ for psychology, medicine, etc.) … but once you know how, it’s more efficient and CHEAPER than Google.

    I *love* the term strategy guide. Maybe I’ll work that into my next preso … or at least, my next pitch to faculty to get me into the classroom to teach the students …

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