Weekly Response, Maureen McElroy

Of all the readings this week, the Thomas Mann article sticks out in my mind most or maybe I have the biggest problem with.  I get what he is trying to say–he apparently thinks the best way to do research is to use OPAC’s subject browse feature and feels that is being under utilized.  I am not sure if I agree with his argument.  The Yugoslavia example he gave seems a little far fetched.  I think that if someone came up to the reference desk and said they need materials on the history of Yugoslavia, the first thing a reference library should ask have done is asked a few questions to narrow down his search before he even got to a computer.  I do not think this person should be “delighted” at Mann points out–his head should have exploded when he realized his topic was too broad.  What do some of those subject strings mean, they are just as broad; also, is it complete (I know he indicated that this was a sample).  He seems to think a problems are solved by typing Yugoslavia in, what about if it a term that has multiple meanings in multiple contexts–perhaps if he was looking for the history of Turkey (the country or the animal).  Haven’t we read a lot about headings not being accurate, or up-to-date, or culturally sensitive–he seems to think the OPAC’s subject browse feature produces only gold.  What is his problem with Boolean–yes if you do not know how to use it can produce a mess but you can also do some very sophisticated queries–limiting the information you want to see.  I laughed when I read in reference to Boolean that patrons are “simply incapable of coming up with the best terms.”–Really.  Isn’t it part of the job of the librarian to help in that area.  Using the Yugoslavia example, can’t things be missed–would typing in Yugoslavian yield additional results, Yugoslavia was made up of many ethnic groups–should you also search them if you are looking at history.  He his offering a simple argument to prove his point but not a good one.

If there is anything I have learned as a researcher is that there is no one way to do it and if you are any good at it you use multiple methods to achieve this end.  Using OPAC’s subject browse feature should be just one way.


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