November 4, 2008

What scientists think of librarians

Ok, a slightly misleading post title mostly to get you scientists out there to read the post, but I think it gets to the core issue of a discussion happening over on FriendFeed about and article in The Scientist: Libraries 2.0: Secrets from science librarians that can save you hours of work.

Is any publicity good publicity? Is the article nasty or condescending to librarians? Do we really care what people think of us? Are we too thin-skinned?

Here's the offending paragraph:

Not the bifocal-sporting, cardigan-clad Dewey decimal experts of 25 years ago, science librarians in today's universities are a well-versed treasure trove of knowledge, even in life sciences. "People think they know how to search for things, when they really don't know how to use some search tools efficiently," says Osterbur.

With also a more postive spin:
Science librarians of today can scope out particular resources for you, give your lab a tutorial session on special database searching, or hunt down ancient and obscure citations. Here are better ways to get and manage information from popular databases, plus top tips from science librarians on how to make the most of your university and the Internet resources.

There are also some pull-sections highlighting what librarians can bring to the research table: Beyond Pubmed, Advanced Web of Science, RefWorks vs. EndNote and 10 Tips to Get the Most out of your Librarian.

So, what do you think?

Personally, I wouldn't mind getting the article into the hands of all the faculty and grad students at my institution.

(via Joe Kraus's FriendFeed)


Unknown said...

I wonder what is the audience of the article: not librarian, who is quite aware of the new searching tool internet provides; but also not the scientist, for which advices are very few.
Instead, little interesting is the last part (10 tips...), which tries to connect the work of librarians with the work of scientist.
Francesco, Rome (Italy)

John Dupuis said...

Hi Fran,

I think the audience is scientists, to try and let them know what libraries and librarians can do for them and what part we can play in the research process.

Ian said...

I find the part about some of us even having subject backgrounds funny. Although my university is not a top tier research institution it is only recently that we haven't required a subject master's degree for those collecting. I am the first person to be hired as a liaison/collections librarian who didn't have a second MSc/MA.

I still have mixed emotions about that article. I find large chunks of it insulting to our profession. BUT... ... A lot of researchers don't know how we can help them and if this opens their eyes... well anything to get them utilizing our services.

John Dupuis said...

Hi Ian,

I'm not sure we should be surprised by the tone -- after all, it is written by science people who aren't necessarily that knowledgeable about libraries.

On the other hand, science people themselves tend to be targets of negative stereotyping so I guess one could hope they would be more sensitive. Of course, insensitivity is one of those stereotypes ;-)

Anonymous said...


Thank you for posting the link to this article. Although there is an implied negative assumption about librarians, I found the article positive overall. It is just this type of endorsement that we need to see outside the library world. The main point of the article is how useful librarians are. We can use it as a teachable moment for all of our users.

John Dupuis said...

Thanks, Kent. I agree.