Metacrap happens

Today has been a surreal graduate student experience about metadata, classification and cataloging… basically how we find information or enable information to be found so we can use it. (Isn’t that just another way to define communication?)

It all started with a Melissa Gross-style imposed query by one of my favorite professors, Dr. Brown, who literally “set us up” to use databases like ProQuest’s ABI/INFORM, OCLC FirstSearch’s ArticleFirst, and EBSCO Host’s Academic Search Elite to find an obscure article from an unnamed source with little “real” information to go on. Of course, the exercise was engineered for us to learn ways to use search terms and limiters and stop words and the like to assist in a search for information. (Did you pick up on those stop words?)

Well, a half hour and a lot of frustration later, I employed my competitive intelligence skills and did a little googling to find the answer. I think many of the legitimate searchers in our class are still searching, and in order to successfully finish my assignment, I’m using the answer to go back and recreate a “legitimate” search.

Is this the way it’s supposed to be?

Does information have to be so properly indexed and classified? Why is “googling” at the academic level a bad thing? Is it the means or the end?

Too many unanswered questions! So I turned to Doc Martens’ focus on “established classification” for a break from the imposed query experience, only to read Cory Doctorow’s article on

4 Comments

  1. Very interesting post. For what it’s worth, ACRL wouldn’t disagree, though it would amusing to see the association try to have a referendum on the issue. The bloggers at ACRLog are just members who blog about their own ideas and obsessions. We don’t always agree with each other, much less speak for the membership.

    If you can get an answer faster through Google than through a database – and the answer is as good – then obviously the database failed to do what it was intended for. Ding ding ding! you lose.

    I had a someone different experience once. I got frustrated with a Google search on a controversial topic because I got pages of crazy (but apparently popular) rants, went to a database and found an article that looked good, then went back to Google because the article, which wasn’t full text in the database, might be online for free – and it was. (Well, I had to register, and now I get e-mails about the publication, but …) It just hadn’t shown up near the top of results for my original search. And, of course, the subscription database didn’t point me toward the non-subscription site.

    I think “just communicate!” is ideal, but I’m surprised at how often I have to patch together different systems to get what I want.

    Reply

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