What do you use the library for?

Researchers have a difficult job getting their hands on the right information in a crowded data landscape. Researchers are the primary client group for many libraries and the library pinpoints the right information that can define the speed of new product development, policy formulation and financial planning. Much like engine oil the “special” library helps our economy and society function smoothly. It’s not so obvious but a vital component that is all too easily lost amongst competing challenges for corporate resources.

When all of the published material is now online, why continue to maintain in-house catalogues?

As a software supplier to libraries we regularly converse with librarians and knowledge managers but we don’t often get to speak to end users. So it was interesting to speak to a trainee doctor the other day in one of the busiest hospitals in London. Technically not a researcher but definitely a class of user that needs to make decisions and needs to be well informed.

I asked “What do you use the library for and how do you find materials?”

The trainee doctor was in their mid-twenties, complete with iPhone, tablet and a MacBook Air and had already completed one degree and now in midst of training as a doctor! Pretty IT literate and certainly used to finding information given the education history.  Their answer was illuminating.

“I often do my reading in the library, it’s a quiet place compared to A & E, and I can browse the texts.”

What about online databases etc? I asked.

“Have you ever tried logging in – all that hassle with Athens and passwords – I haven’t got the time or inclination. I prefer reading the text on physical pages as it helps my recall, I can visualise turning the pages and the text much better than any online digital reference!”

She continued.

“There is so much information on-line I don’t know which is the right publication or what to rely on. So I typically consult the library catalogue or simply ask my Consultant what is best to read!”

So there you have it. The reason why the library catalogue is important even when you have all of those millions of records out there in online databases. It’s the way the library brings it together and presents it and makes it easy for a user to access systems that makes a difference.

So over to you and the question “What do you use the Library for?” I welcome your comments below!

Author
Graham Beastall – Senior Consultant and Managing Director. Graham’s background is in Accountancy, Public Administration and Organisational Theory with a deep technical understanding of databases and web technologies. More posts by Graham.
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