Library gets you "where you need to know"—August 1, 2008
One of the major tasks at the Hastings Public Library is fielding reference questions. The term “reference” can mean “citation,” as in: “I need to reference that fact.” But, it can also signify “orientation,” such as used in the phrase “point of reference.”
Oftentimes, staff at the library try to help the asker filter the bombardment of information available on the Internet to get to the sites that are useful. When working on reference questions, I have a personal short list of favorite web sites. Of course, I can Google like the best of us, but information and promotion often compete in the results list.
To keep track of my favorite sites, I’ve created an account on “delicious” (delicious.com), which is a social bookmarking web site. (Funny how the word “bookmark” has moved into the realm of technology, isn’t it?) I store the bookmarks I would usually store on a computer on this site instead, which allows me to access the same bookmarks from any computer and add bookmarks from anywhere.
After I’ve bookmarked a site, I “tag” it with descriptors, making it easy to sort and organize my sites, as well as pull up similar ones where I’ve used the same tag. And if I’ve tagged them right, it should facilitate navigation for people looking at my page to find sites of interest to them, too.
For example, I’ve created a folder, or “bundle,” called “reference.” In that bundle I’ve put tags I created for some of my bookmarked web sites. Some of the tags I put in that bundle are “learning,” “search,” “resources,” and, you guessed it, “reference.” Descriptions of some of the sites I have added now follow:
Students needing information for country studies are shown almanacs and books in the library, but may also find The World Factbook, the CIA’s publication of information about all the countries in the world, helpful. The library carries the printed publication, but all the information is available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html. Those trying to keep up with current events can appreciate the depth and breadth of this site.
Working on Spanish or other language proficiency, or in need of a good dictionary for translating or interpreting? The best site out there for nearly-accurate translation of words, along with discussion forums on usage, is WordReference.com. This site is my first stop when a print dictionary isn’t handy.
One place I turn to for literature I would consider excellent but may not become bestsellers is IndieBound (www.indiebound.org). “Indie Next List” features a monthly selection of eclectic new books chosen by independent booksellers.
From time to time there will be a request to help find a favorite childhood poem, or a poem for a toast for an anniversary gathering. With thousands of poems by hundreds of authors, Bartleby.com offers one of the largest free collections of verse on the web. I’ve had pretty good luck there, and can then find the corresponding book of poetry in our collection.
For health and human services questions, I often turn to the Nebraska statewide 2-1-1 web site at www.ne211.org. I can search the entire site for agencies and programs serving any area of Nebraska.
You can view all the sites I’ve saved with the “reference” tag at delicious.com/k_brockmeier/reference. Or, you can visit the Hastings Public Library web site for similar links at www.hastings.lib.ne.us/links.html.
Besides telling you where a book is in the library—getting you “where you need to go”—library staff can help you find information in the library, through an agency, or on a web site—getting you “where you need to know.”