room for improvement in library use

Eve Pinsker (U56728@UICVM.BITNET)
Fri, 4 Mar 1994 11:38:22 CST

My own observations lead me to agree with Cohen-Williams' and Finnegan's
comments on the room for improvement in anthropologists' use of
libraries. I think that Finnegan's comments about the prevalence of
peer-referral in finding references are right on the mark.(The
institution he made those comments in reference to is one with which I
myself am familiar, although the tendency is not confined to the
anthropology dept. - a few years ago I showed an article to a professor
in another dept., on a subject which he said was relevant to his current
research. He said, "How did you find that?" having apparently not run
across it himself. I said "In the online catalog," -- and I'm not
talking about the CD-Rom databases, just the regular online catalog,
using the simplest kind of search command. He'd never bothered to do
that, apparently assuming that anything that was worth reading would
have been referred to in the journals he reads or in the conversation
of his colleagues). I think there's a correlation here between this
problem and some of O'Brien's comments -- the reliance on peer-referral
strengthens the attention paid only to what's currently "trendy," leads
to re-invention of the wheel because people don't do serious literature
searches on research that's previously been done, and it also
strengthens disciplinary boundaries. One of the most useful ways I've
been able to use the new computer-searchable databases is in doing
cross-disciplinary literature searches. It's amazing what you can find.
Eve Pinsker