Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Two tales of friends and their information needs

I saw two friends trying to find information today, but only one was open to letting me help. The first person was trying to find material for her English courses and I pointed her toward the MLA International Bibliography as a good starting point and showed some of the search functions. She was much surprised at such tools and appeared to be pleased with this lead.

In this case, the advice provided was partly accepted since the conversation took place in the context of academic work and it involved using a library database. Advice from an information professional context is welcome in an educational context using educational research tools.

In the other case, a friend was looking for some recreational information (music, to be precise) she had previously accessed. When I noticed that she was searching Google with no apparent success, I asked what she was up to. I said, "Ah, you're looking for information - that is my speciality, actually..." She then responded, "Well, it's not information; it's ." It was clear that advice was not wanted. She did eventually find what she wanted but only after much searching around and much frustration.

Advising people in research when they are using a familiar tool like a commercial search engine is a much more challenging "sell". People often find what they want through such means, even though such tools are often manipulated through SEO techniques. It might also be important that the second interaction took place in a leisure or recreational context.

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