Friday, October 20, 2006

Tara Brabazon

What a dynamic speaker, and a perfect complement to Stephen Abrams. Tara was the second keynote speaker, and started day two of the conference in a way that really *made* the conference for me. Her presentation was what switched the lightbulb on in my head.

Where Stephen spoke about the rapid change in the online world, and how librarians must take up free, easy-to-use web 2.0 tools to engage with our customers, Tara spoke and about the need to put some depth and context into the online experience. Here are some dot points I made from her presentation - not sure I agree with every detail, but her overall direction gave me food for thought.
  • spoke about Wikipedia and blogs and the rise of mediocrity
  • there is a great need for information literacy
  • use of google by undergraduate students - subtle wearing away of the value of research
  • there is an (incorrect) assumption that if people get millions of results from a google search, that they have the intelligence to interpret those results
  • the whole ethos of google search is based on mathematics, not humanities / social sciences
  • google page-rank results in confusion between popularity and quality
  • blogs - people overvaluing the minutia of their day
  • wiki contributors - anti-intellectuals with time on their hands
  • are we prepared to trade speed for accuracy? (ability for wikipedia to quickly update to changing circumstances)
  • Tara has observed a general decline in comprehension skills by her students - if they see text on a screen, it must be true
  • She struggles to get undergraduate students to find and use 10 references for assignments
  • Librarians and teachers need to highlight the quality websites to our students and users
  • google scholar is an important development - at least it is alerting people to the fact that there are different kinds of information
  • problem is not google, it is the google-effect. The degradation of education, the flattening of intellectual curiosity
  • Libraries do not provide information - we provide a way through information

I'll take away from this a renewed interest in information literacy (and how we can make it useful and fun for our users), a renewed appreciation of the value and potential our Searchlight column has, and a renewed commitment to the value of public libraries.

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