Citations are dumb


Image from "Victory of the People" on Flickr

I really find citations to be annoying.  Who cares if you are supposed to add a period instead of a comma?  Who cares if everything gets capitalized, or only the first words?  The original point of citations was so you could refer the reader to a  relevant quote or an idea from someone else.  Well guess what.  We have a way better tool for that now. They’re called hyperlinks.

Citations are the original hyperlink. Example: A reader is cruising along reading a lengthy document on law or medicine or something equally prestigious and comes across something with which he is unfamiliar. “Golly, I sure wish I knew more about where this information came from,” he says to himself.  But lo and behold there is a little number next to the sentence he was just reading.  He glances at the bottom of the page and finds the same corresponding number next to a little note, a footnote if you will.  He is then able to follow the citation in the footnote to a completely different article and then learn more about that topic.

The same process is currently availble on the web except it is much easier.  If you see something you want to know more about, you click on it.

I can see why students cut corners and  spend as little time as possible on citations. It’s boring and it is not the reason they went to school.  I get bored to tears coming up with citation examples.  And I don’t always get the capitalization right.  Citations are not fun or glamorous.

Even though I think they’re dumb, I can still see the value in them.  Properly citing teaches you to give credit where credit is due. It teaches you to be able to separate your thoughts from other people’s thoughts. It’s also good practice following set formats and writing a certain way.  In their jobs many of these students may have to use specialized writing: things like business memos, technical writing, commenting in their code. Students have to learn sooner or later they have to be able to understand and follow specific rules for writing.

That doesn’t make it any more fun, but at least it gives them a reason why they should care about proper citations.


Keeping it Real

To my relief am finally finished teaching for the semester.  Teaching is more stressful than other parts of my job.  But, as both a professional and as a person, I think that I grow the most through teaching.

I have heard that you never really know something until you teach it. There is a lot of truth in this. I think I am gaining a much better understanding of what information literacy is and how it influences our daily lives.

Teaching the same session over and over can become pretty dull, but it also helps you to polish the session and find your groove.  Every first-year session I did went well, but I think that I really found my groove in the last one. I knew what I wanted to get across and even kept it interesting by telling related anecdotes from my own life or even stupid jokes. This makes a session more personal and less robotic.  By bringing your real self into the classroom you are able to connect better with students.

One example was when I was talking about finding information.  I told them that they were not just looking for stuff but the right stuff.  Like the New Kids on the Block. Then I sang the “oh, oh, oh, oh, oh” part of the chorus.  It was super lame, but I got a few pity laughs.  And the students knew I wasn’t some phony preaching to them. I was just a dude having a discussion with them about information.

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the script or lesson plan and just go through the motions, but if you can personalize it and actually put yourself into your teaching, you will serve the students much better.

I am looking forward to the holidays and a little break from teaching though.  I need to recharge for next semester.


User-Evaluation Librarian?

I finished reading a study this week titled “Information Behavior of the Reasearcher of the Future.“  It was put out early this year and some of the findings were fascinating.  It once again reminded me of all the barriers that our users face as opposed to getting information from the free web.  These are things like waiting for an interlibrary loan, confusing search interfaces, poorly presented search results, etc.

I see this in my work as well. Yesterday I was helping a student who had found two e-books but she was having problems accessing them.  I was surprised that the student continued trying to access them.  I am sure that many just give it up and go to Google.  Speed seems to be the most important criteria for information these days.

One quote, though, really stood out as interesting and something that I had never thought of.

No private sector corporation would survive on the basis of failing to invest in consumer profiling, market research and loyalty programmes. No library we are aware of has a department devoted to the evaluation of the user, how can that be?

This seems like a very innovative idea.  Innovation can often be just taking something that is commonplace in one arena and applying it in another.  Why aren’t there any user-evaluation librarians?  Or why aren’t there more consultants that evaluate library user groups and make reccomendations for action?

I strongly urge librarians who are charged with the task of education to read this study.  Students are finding information faster, but they are questioning it less and not thinking in depth about it.