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Instant expert

In my student years I was often amazed by reference librarians who helped me find relevant information even the subject was remote to his/her specialty (I was told so). They are knowledgeable in general and quick learners for sure. But more importantly, they know the strategy and logic when encountering unfamiliar subjects on their daily job. This ability is seen as one of the prominent characteristics of librarianship. It makes the reference librarian as a walking-encyclopedia, so to speak.

In a recent blog post <http://searchresearch1.blogspot.com/2015/05/this-week-conversation.html>, Daniel Russell of Google asks “What do you do when you need to learn about a topic area very quickly?” His take is to “look for groups of people interested in your topic.” Other people suggested sources and tools like Wikipedia, good keywords, professional associations, authoritative guides, blogs, and of course, Google search. I like to check Wikipedia for known subjects, e.g. classical music, and to search Google for just about everything. In most cases, the latter will include the former in search results. Dr. Russell will have a related talk “How to become an instant expert on a topic through Google” at the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in Philadelphia. <https://www.ire.org/events-and-training/event/1574/1952/>

Thinking and re-thinking

James M. Lang, an associate professor of English and director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College, questions the use of the popular term “lifelong learning” in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Advice section.

The author believes all human beings with working brains are lifelong learners, and takes on [the over-use of] “lifelong learning”, which, in his words, “accomplishes little and means less”.

Posting this does not mean I am totally for the author’s opinion, after all, motivating and educating lifelong learner is our ultimate goal. We ought to be open-minded. Reading different viewpoints helps us think and rethink and act upon our own mission.

One of the comments, presumably coming from a librarian, views our current practice in library instruction is “anti-lifelong-learning” due to its passive, course-driven nature, e.g. teaching the database that the faculty insists on. S/He went on to suggest that we should teach some true information literacy contents such as how to search Google and Google Scholar. (I would add open access databases for the same reason.) For this, I am totally for.

Here is the article link:

Enough with the ‘Lifelong Learning’ Already

by James M. Lang