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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.

Searching Tips

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, October 1, 2006


Lee Gomes is a staff reporter for the "Wall Street Journal's" San Francisco Bureau, and writes a column called the "Technical Advisor."


A recent column was entitled, "Simple Tips for Smarter Searches."


As I read his suggestions, I found his "tips" to be the same things we say to people using the library's computers.


People are creatures of habit, once they master a particular web site or search engine, they generally use it forever.


Once on Yahoo, always on Yahoo.


Gomes points out that when entering a URL, it is no longer necessary to type "www" in front of the URL main name.


Search engines have become smart enough to supply www.


I catch myself typing those letters when going directly to a URL, even though I know better.  It's the creature of habit thing.


Gomes compares the big three search engines, Google, Yahoo, and Ask.


All have made tremendous advancements in recent years, and can now take you directly to the information rather than to web sites that contain the information. seems to do a better job of this, as they pioneered providing basic information before the others.


If you aren't aware, used to be "Ask Jeeves," but poor Jeeves has retired to a better life.


I find that one of the best things to do with any search tool on the Internet is to select "site features" or "help" or whatever that site provides as supplementary information. has a great list of "Search Tips" from the most basic issue that spelling counts, to category inclusion.


While this likely equates to a man asking for directions, most search tools have wonderful tips for searching. has an interview with Gary Price, the Director of Online Information Resources for the site.


He says that the common mistake that people make is to know one thing, and "that's it."


There are so many specialized tools, and new features of search tools that receive little usage.


He notes that people of all ages need Internet training, rather than the current trial & error method of learning, or word of mouth from someone who "found something" that is good.


People simply take what they can get from a search tool, rather than using "advanced search."


Both Gomes and Price make another recommendation - Go to your Library and get a Card!


Both say that some of the best information on the Web is from local libraries and the online systems that most acquire and offer to the public.


 We all come to the Internet with different backgrounds and experiences.


Our age plays a role in our Internet use.  Did you notice when I used the word "type" to describe data entry?


Talking to your librarian will help your online searching.


Remember that librarians have the search skills from traditional sources of library information, and know how to form a search in the same way we searched a book index.


That's why we are here!