Research Skills


Embedded librarians perform a wide variety of functions, but two stand out: research, and teaching about research. The SLA-sponsored study that Mary Talley and I published in 2009 found that these broad categories described the most common tasks, and I don’t have any reason to think that that has changed in the meantime.

That’s why I think many readers of this blog may be interested in an article by Dan Russell in the Winter 2015 issue of AI Magazine, which is published by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence.

Russell is a research scientist with Google and has been a go-to guru on search functionality for years. The article is entitled, “What Do You Need to Know to Use a Search Engine? Why We Still Need to Teach Research Skills.” Thus, it’s a Google scientist’s statement of why Google’s not a panacea, powerful though it is. Embedded librarians and other librarians can learn some lessons from the article in how to articulate to our non-librarian colleagues why research skills and information literacy matter. As the abstract says, in part: “… knowing how to frame questions and evaluate their results for accuracy and credibility remains an ongoing challenge. Some questions are still deep and complex … And the fact that the underlying information content, user interfaces, and capabilities are all in a continual state of change means that searchers need to continually update their knowledge of what these programs can (and cannot) do.”

It’s also a good reminder to us librarians that research skills — the ability to use them as well as teach them — continue to be a critical asset for us. Frankly, sometimes I get the idea that a lot of librarians and library science students just want to focus on amassing digital collections of “stuff” and have abandoned any interest in retrieval and research technologies and the research process.

Anyway, I hope you read the article, and I’d love to get your comments on it.


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