December 10, 2003

"The expert user is dead" by Leo Robert Klein is such a terrific article it's like it smacked me right between the eyes with a two-by-four. We all like seeing articles that agree with our basic assumptions, and I'm no exception. Klein's thesis is basically that the modern user (ie. average undergrad and 90% of grad & faculty) really don't care about the thesaurus or other controlled vocabulary. They rarely, if ever, use advanced search features. They almost never want everything on a topic or even the best information on a topic. The want good enough, fast enough as easy as Google. However, we as librarians usually assume that the users are just like us and want to use all the bells and whistles, that they are being comprehensive, that they enjoy poking around in odd corners of a database. Not! The point being, we should design our websites, out databases, our webguides, our instruction, our reference interviews for who our users are, not who we would like them to be. Sure, there are highly specialized users that are the exception (chemistry & SciFinder comes to mind), but I really think the Google paradigm is the rule. Every librarian, every vendor should take a look at this article. You may not agree, but you will be challenged. Via various sources.

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