I had a conversation with a friend this morning about Canasta – the card game.
We had recently had a lovely evening catching up with her and her husband, whilst playing Canasta. Subsequently, she had searched for and found her own Canasta desk at home. She said that although she found the cards, there were no rules with it and as they had been trying to remember the rules, this was important.
Before I had a chance to suggest it, she said she had found the rules on the Internet, but that they were pages and pages long and that at this stage, she was just looking for some quick rules on how to play two-handed Canasta. Having my Android phone to hand (as always), I did a quick search and found a site which presented the basic rules of the variant of two-handed Canasta, in 6 steps.
On telling her my find, she was surprised and asked the question I expected next. How did you find them? The difference was in our search terms. She searched for Canasta, whereas I knew she was specifically looking for the rules of two-handed Canasta and had included that phrase in my search. She was going home to do her improved search to find the real information she wanted.
Librarians are great finders. We listen, we question, we confirm until we are confident that we know exactly what people are looking for and then we use the best search terms possible (and variants on those as well) to find them exactly what they need. Its a skill, but very under-appreciated until people feel the benefit of it. It can be learned by people, but as it was taught to us (and hope it still is to upcoming librarians) it is more ingrained to us.
To quote Neil Gaiman – “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.” And that’s just one of the things we do better.