Marysville Library Blog

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What WAS that book called?

Have you ever been frustrated by not being able to come up with the name of a book you’ve read? You can see the cover, you can give a great synopsis, but what *was* it called? And who wrote it? Okay, I admit it, I love to read - as a librarian it could even be called an occupational hazard. But even so, this happens to me all the time, too. It’s even more frustrating for me, because I will usually have a patron in front of me that I want to recommend a perfect book for.

Many times a patron who can’t think of the title of the book they read will come to me and ask to check “our records.” And I tell them that after they turn in a book, our records are very quickly purged. I was surprised myself to find out in library school that there isn’t some musty basement record of all the books I’ve ever checked out. The reason we do this is that we guard your privacy jealously. If we don’t have a good system-function reason to have your information, we don’t keep it. So if government types ask, or hackers attack, we truly can’t give them any information that would connect you and your contact information with a particular book or reading history. What you read is your business, not ours or anybody else’s.

So how can we solve the “tip-of-the-tongue” problem I started off with? There are three very good, similar web sites that can help: LibraryThing, Shelfari, and GoodReads. What can you do with these sites?

  • Keep lists of books you've read, want to read, or are reading
  • Tag and catalog your books however you want them organized
  • See who else has similar reading tastes , and what they’re reading
  • Get recommendations from your friends who also use the site
With all of these sites, you control your own reading history and tastes, and nothing necessarily connects the virtual you with the real world you. Personally, I use GoodReads, but any of them work just as well. I can see what categories of books I read a lot of (categories that I create myself), I can see what books friends in my network like and don’t like, and when my pile of books from the library gets low, I can check my list of books that I want to read. And best of all, when I know a book or category of books will appeal to a reader in front of me, I have more than a hope of actually putting an enjoyable book into their hands.


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Wikipedia in research

Is Wikipedia a good resource for research? Well, sort of. First of all, wikis in general are websites where anyone can update or change the site, even anonymously. Wikipedia is a wiki that gathers information like an encyclopedia, but using anybody who wants to contribute. This is good because it leverages the expertise of many different people. But on the other hand, since anybody can change the articles at any time for any reason (even to be malicious or deliberately misleading), what you see on one search may not match what you find the next time you look at that topic. Because of this, Wikipedia is definitely not a good source to cite on a research paper, not even for elementary students.

But Wikipedia does have a place as a useful tool in researching a topic. You can use Wikipedia in 2 ways:
  • First, if you know absolutely nothing about a topic, Wikipedia can give a very good overview.
  • Secondly, at the bottom of each topic article is a list of outside links to resources, including websites, articles, and even academic research. These links usually lead to good resources that CAN be cited in a paper.

If the student in your life needs more help finding sources for a paper, don't hesitate to send them to the information desk here at Marysville. That's what we love doing!