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Getting Smart About Search

Monday afternoon in the Discovery, Navigation, and Search Track ended with a discussion between a veteran searcher, Marydee Ojala (that would be me), and a current library school student, Sheridan Reid. Sheridan also works with 5th graders. We started from the position that search technology does not stand and that obsolescence is inevitable. Sheridan noted that her generation and the children in elementary school are phone-centric. Marydee talked about the AI technologies, particularly machine learning and predictive analytics that are being used to determine relevance.  Boolean search strategies, the reliance on controlled vocabulary, and copyright restrictions have little meaning to younger people.  That’s not all bad, since Boolean doesn’t really work with web search engines and controlled vocabulary is giving way to contextual and conceptual analysis or word choice.  As for ignoring copyright, that may not be generational at all.

What’s clear is that the convenience factor of getting to information, whether it’s on the web or in a subscription database, is very important. Sheridan made the point that not everyone she knows is wedded to online information. Sometimes a print book is more appropriate than an ebook. Both speakers see a future filled with multimedia searching.

The session ended with thoughts on “magical thinking.” Everyone searches well. Everything you find on the internet is true (or nothing you find is true). Searching library databases provides comprehensive answers. All three are magical thinking.


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