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Modeling Real Search Skills in Action

Modeling Search Skills

Tasha Berson-Michelson (L), Instructional & Programming Librarian, Castilleja School, and Julie Erickson (R), Electronic Resources Coordinator, South Dakota State Library

This was an interesting interactive session on how professional searchers use the skills they were taught in library school (if they still use them!)? First, the audience was presented with a search question and asked to note the keywords, synonyms, or search strategies they would use.  Here are the responses:

  • Do a reference interview and ask for details, related terms, synonyms, etc.
  • Ask the requester to furnish the title of a book that would answer the question, then enter it into Google.

Here are some strategies that one can use in formulating searches:

Filter a broad question down using tacit knowledge.  Ask requesters what they know and what connections they can make between terms.  One of the hardest things to do is searching something you know nothing about in front of a requester.  Say “how fascinating!” when you make a mistake or retrieve irrelevant results.  Every failed search is an opportunity to teach you something that you can move forward with.

It is easy to over-share your knowledge with users.  Don’t tell them everything you know!  Less is more.  Let users watch over your shoulder, but give them time to read search results when you have obtained them.

Stop and think before you type something into a search box.  Step into the requester’s shoes and discover how users think about things.

Use “transferrable skills” such as exact-phrase searching (using quotation marks), Control-F (find in page), limiters (NOT using the minus sign), and filtering by file type, color, or searching by image.


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