Friday, May 8, 2009

Knowing How to Find Information

Information-literacy skills will help individuals recognize when they need information, where they might go for information, how to find it, and how to use it. Today a patron came asking for the salary of department chairs in a California State University. Initially, I thought he was asking for salaries of ISU faculty. (We have two spiral-bound books that list the salaries of all persons working at ISU. By government mandate, all government employees must have their salaries freely available to the public.)

Once I found out he needed salary ranges for engineering chairs in California I went to Google. We found a few results that looked somewhat useful. He asked that I email him a URL, so he could look at it on his own.

After he left I wondered whether or not one of the librarians at this university in California could find the salary ranges that we needed, so I googled the university and found its library. They had a nifty chat-reference service embedded on one of their webpages, which I found to be easy to use. The librarian on the other end thought that this listing of salaries at their institution would be online, but after she/he couldn't find it, they told me they would retrieve the print copy. (When you are waiting for an answer on a chat service, two minutes seems like an eternity. We are spoiled with our quick technology.)

Not too long afterwards, the librarian returned and provided the salary range (they have more than one engineering department, thus they have more than one engineering chair) and a few other bits of information that she/he thought would be useful. Since I had previously emailed the patron, I was able to send along this additional information.

When someone asks for information about a specific institution or locale, it may not hurt to consult a librarian at that institution, or a librarian at the nearest public library.

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