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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

In the Electronic World of Today, the Library is Still Here to Serve You.

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, March 26, 2006

The meeting room was filled with 30 librarians attending a workshop on communicating with the public to fill their information needs. The Consultant was a man who owned a communications firm, and did workshops on successfully interacting with the public.

The first words from his mouth at this workshop related to the fact that he had gone through four years of college and never used the college library. That was followed by a hearty laugh.

He was staring at the room full of librarians, whose expressions had turned to a stone-faced gaze; finding nothing funny in his comments. This happened many years ago, before the Internet, when a trip to the college library was essential to complete a degree program. Actually, librarians today would continue to say that all students of any grade level need a library to complete their education.

The Internet is a wonderful tool, and libraries use the capability to obtain information for the public from a multitude of resources. At the same time, web sites on the Internet can be created by people who are not experts in their fields and really do not have information that should be used in school research.

The perfect example is a university class who was assigned to do a research project on the Vikings. All students in the class used the Internet, as well as the resources of their college library in preparing the project. Three of the research projects reported that the Vikings came from Connecticut. That information is not correct, yet three college students could not evaluate the information posted by an individual as not being scientific research data. This is why students need to use libraries in research.

Our library system, combined with the Ohio Public Library Information Network, provides many online databases, developed by a variety of quality companies and educational institutions. There is also the KnowItNow online program to answer information requests through the library's web site. The Homework Helper is also available in the afternoon from the library web site, providing specialized assistance to users doing homework.

The Library, of course, still has print sources.  Not all information in the world is online, and print sources are still an important component to information research. Some print sources are online in full text, including our Digital Shoebox of local history information, and our library of e-books. The best thing about libraries is that people still work here.People answer the phones; people work at the desks in our libraries.

That is becoming unusual in our world today.  Public service desks have disappeared from so many places, only to be replaced with 800 phone numbers and a "contact button" on a web site that seems to connect to nobody. So, remember that in the electronic world of today, your library is still here to serve you.