By Meredith Farkas | November 9, 2006
After we teach our students how to distinguish between authoritative and unauthoritative resources, we need to actually show them how to find such authoritative resources. While our databases are great, they sometimes aren’t the most user-friendly things to search (LexisNexis anyone?). And frankly, these students won’t have access to the databases once they graduate and yet they may still have to do research in their subject area. So it’s nice to show students that there are some great resources in their subject that are freely available on the Web.
I’m sure most of you already know that ResourceShelf is a amazing place to find quality online resources that you may never have found otherwise. Docuticker, its sister site, offers links to quality reports and publications from the government and think tanks. I remember way back when that ResourceShelf was the very first thing I ever subscribed to in my aggregator (ahhh… those lazy days when I was only subscribed to 10 or 15 feeds!). It’s a site I frequently consult to find useful Websites on timely issues. Gary Price and Shirl Kennedy have really developed one of the most valuable resources online for librarians and researchers.
Jimmy Atkinson recently e-mailed me to let me know about his article Research Beyond Google. It is a really nice guide to 119 authoritative resources on a variety of subjects, both academic and practical. Worth checking out and maybe showing to your patrons.
Another terrific resource that every librarian should be using is the Librarian’s Index to the Internet. LII is a collection of hand-picked quality online resources that is browseable and searchable. You can also subscribe to their New This Week newsletter to get updated weekly on the great sites they’ve found and added.
A resource I frequently use to find quality resources on a specific subject is the subject guides of other libraries. Why scour the Web trying to reinvent the wheel when you can just see what resources the librarians at the Kansas City Public Library or Yale University chose in that subject?
I’m sure this is redundant to most of you, but I think we can’t stress enough how important these resources are. We don’t need to be an expert in the best Web resources in every subject, but we do need to know where to look when we need that information.
Another great way to help students find quality resources on the Web is to use something like Google Custom Search or Rollyo. Imagine being able to create a search box that searches only the Websites you choose. You could handpick Websites in a certain subject and stick the search box on your subject page. Google Custom Search is great because you can actually create neat custom ways that your users can refine their searches by assigning markers (categories) to the chosen Websites. The first thing I thought of when I heard about Google CSE was “wow, that’s going to be a Rollyo-killer” and, especially with the custom refinements, I think my initial impression may end up being correct.
I haven’t explored Google Custom Search as much as I’d like, but I have a feeling that I will be using it in the future to develop a way for our distance learners to search a bunch of high-quality Websites in their subject area. The biggest complaint I always get from students is that they can’t search everything from a single box. Well… this isn’t a perfect solution (and we can’t search the databases with it), but it’s a pretty darn good solution. If you want to take a look at some real examples of librarians doing stuff with Google Custom Search, check out the following:
- “Scholarly Science” search at Christina’s LIS Rant
- LISZEN (which I mentioned a few days ago)
- David Rothman’s Consumer Health and Patient Education Information search
- Luke Rosenberger’s English-language DOAJ search engine
Hot X 4!
I get very nervous when I hear professors and librarians telling students not to use the Web when they do research — though it usually comes out in the form of “don’t use Google to do your research!” Sigh. There are so many incredible resources on the Web in so many different subjects… we need to make it easier for patrons to find the best ones out there rather than making them afraid of anything they find on the Web.