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search engines have come a long way since the 1990s, but they have not reached the capabilities that would put them kin to a librarian.  What skills and knowledge to librarians possess that search engines don’t?

  • Librarians have critical thinking skills that allow them to look at a question from many angles before working on the answer. 
  • Librarians understand nuances that aren’t contained in the text of a book or web site.
  • Librarians have muti-dimensional problem solving skills.  They understand that questions could lead to more questions and answers could lead to more problems.
  • Librarians recognize differences in their users that search engines have yet to learn.  Humans know more about human motivation than computers could ever understand.  
  • Librarians ask questions.  They are taught to ferret out the researcher’s real question through reference interviews.  Researchers often don’t know how to ask the right question to get the answer they are seeking.  Reference interviews aren’t set questions and answers that a computer can put forth and understand.  They are discussions between two human beings that lead to a better understanding of the question by both parties and better answers for the researcher.


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