learning center

Search Strategies Revisited

Spring-boarding from last week's Quality Tip about information literacy, we've chosen to focus on search strategies for today's tip. We're hoping this is an opportunity for us all to review our habits. We all have some unconscious methods; the old stand-by's and reliable methods and resources that work well in most cases. But there are a few ideas that may help you improve how you search, and how you can bring your customer in on the process:

Talking about Information Literacy

Not too long ago, in the dark pre-Web and html days, libraries had a somewhat contained grasp of carefully selected sources around their desks.  These tools provided the reference librarians and staff with information from well-worn materials at their fingertips.  Finding "the answer" to questions, such as who won the World Series in 1978, the highest peak in the U.S., which refrigerator is the best on the market, or what Nikola Tesla invented were often organized in a Ready Reference collection, as well as available to check out through almanacs and encyclopedias.  Some materials floated over to the large Xerox machines as dimes were fed in and pages were copied.  Earnest librarians amazed patrons when they found reputable articles through the library's in-print journals and databases.

When you have to --- gracefully --- end your shift

Most of us are so busy with our library work that we sit down a minute or two before our shift is to begin, take a breath, bring up our favorite browser and launch chat.  Before we know it, that hour is up and we're off to our next duty.

Once in a while you might see the clock come full swing but realize the patron's question is not completely answered.  Looking at your calendar, you realize you have to be on the desk or in a meeting or worse, that your library is closing, and a sense of panic flares up.  What do you do?

Overcoming Uncertainty: "Can I answer THIS?"

Our ultimate goal is to pick up our patrons as quickly as possible while providing excellent assistance.  A genuinely welcoming greeting, given in a matter of just a few seconds, sets the tone for what can be a small but significant adventure together into the world of information. Through our need to find excellent information and solutions, we creatively tax our brains and benefit from these active, intellectual pursuits.

Answering the Tough Questions

As any virtual librarian will attest: not all questions can be answered online! As much as we wish it were the case, not everything can be found quickly and easily. 

So, what can we do?  We always want to consider options for immediately helping our customers, and we have some powerful tools right at our fingertips!

Freshening up Your Scripts

Initially, your personal scripts may have been set up by you as a new provider. If you find you haven't done much work on them after that, you're not alone! It may be time to revisit your scripts and see if they need a little spring cleaning.  You may want to update the language or re-organize them.

The Chat Monitoring Tool

The online environment can be strangely isolating, yet amazingly active.  While settling in for your chat session, it's interesting and informative to gain a sense of who else is online and what types of questions are being asked at the time.  We can do this through the Chat Monitoring Tool.

Turn Off Your Music While Chatting

music notes

Do you listen to music while working? Julie loves to! Music can get you into a groove and help speed up (and liven up) repetitive tasks!

Contacting non-partner libraries when their customers have questions

There are some county systems in Maryland that are not AskUsNow! partners. Sometimes we get questions from customers of these systems. Read more for how to get their customer's questions routed correctly.

Quality Tip Tuesday: filter google results by reading level

Now you can use Google's advanced search feature to filter your results even more! Like by reading level! See http://www.google.com/support/websearch/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1095407 for specifics.

I tried it with physics – a topic I find hard to research for kids – and found a few sites I somehow hadn’t ever come across before (including http://www.physics4kids.com which I vetted as reliable!)

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