Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Is Traditional Reference Dead?

Here is a startling fact:

People in the U.S. use the Internet for more everyday research than any other medium, a fact proven by the 55 percent year-on-year surge in online searches in December, according to market researcher Nielsen/NetRatings. And Google remained the most popular place for Americans to search cyberspace in December.

The number of online searches in the U.S. soared to nearly 5.1 billion searches in December from 3.3 billion a year earlier, despite just a slight uptick in the total number of Americans connecting to the Internet, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

I was told, by a trusted colleague, that there was something like 300 million reference queries at libraries all of last year. As you can see, libraries are no longer the people's choice when it comes to everyday reference. Are we wasting our time trying to compete in the informational space? If anything, we need to recreate how we provide informational services. How about librarians meeting patrons at the door with Tablet PCs in hand? These Tablet PCs could be connected to the library's network wireless-ly. Librarians could provide on the spot assistance. Libraries could also emphasis the difference between quality reference and non-quality reference. How about this for a slogan? Can't trust the results from Google? Ask a Librarian.

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