Introduction to the Research Process
Every day, we all need to find answers to questions or problems. The solution may be as easy as finding the phone book - but often our answers will require more work. Often we will need to gather information, analyze and assess it, organize it in a way that makes it useful to us, and then incorporate it into a project at school, at work, or at home.
How can we find the following?
and the World of Information
The library has been the storehouse for recorded information since the dawn of writing. The role of the library has changed little since it housed the first clay tablets. Then, as now, it had three main functions: to collect, to organize, and to make available its collection. Someone once said that the library's mission was to collect all of humankind's graphic records. Certainly the writers of the popular Star Trek series felt this way - each futuristic starship has a computerized library of all known information (and not just Earth's). Even in today's high tech world such an endeavor would exceed the capabilities of any library. However, libraries do collect and make available large quantities of organized information, and libraries provide a structured access to the newest electronic types of information.
Of course, people go to libraries for any number of additional reasons - to copy something, to read today's paper, to relax and check on new books, or just to meet a friend. In libraries, college students also use reserved items to complete assignments required for classes and find a place designed to support concentrated study efforts.
is the Library Organized?
Libraries collect multiple types of information resources:
Libraries use several organization approaches to physically arrange or otherwise group materials and resources:
Libraries create, obtain and/or purchase searching or access tools:
A few years ago, most of the information in libraries was published in print format. In other words, libraries housed books, magazines, journals, newspapers and other types of information printed on paper. Today, information is available in a variety of formats. And libraries are now designed to provide access to information not stored within the library's own four walls. But the basics still apply: collection, organization, and access tools. That is why libraries are critical to the person who needs information.
It Really Means to Use a Library
Most library users are novices - occasional library users who are inexperienced and who have not needed to be aware of the research process. Most library users have not really thought about how the library is organized even though they are aware that the online catalog is something different. And most have not really needed to explore the new online indexes, full-text resources and other databases now available.
Users who are aware of the research process and who have used it to find information are "information competent" (sometimes also called "information literate"). The more you use a particular library or collection of tool, the better your results will be, of course. But knowing how any library is organized and how to sort out its resources and tools into appropriate "chunks" will save you time, reduce the stress level, and most importantly get you the information you are looking for. Today's Information Society requires you to become an information navigator. Learning to use a library skillfully will help make that happen.