May 9th, 2008

How is Searching the Library like Shopping?

Good question, isn’t it?

We (Erin & Sommer) attended the LOEX conference last weekend in rainy Oak Brook, Illinois. The main focus of this conference is information literacy and library instruction. Basically, a bunch of librarians got together to talk about how best to turn mere mortals into super searchers. Why would we do this? Well, for some background on information literacy, check out this piece from the Library Research Handbook.

While professional conferences allow all kinds of opportunities for networking, Erin and I found a more unusual opportunity as we donned swimsuits and headed for the pool area. As we sat in the hot tub, we learned about some of the innovative projects going on at other libraries. Anyone interested in finding articles from an iPhone?

We did eventually leave the pool behind and attended a variety of sessions. One of the more interesting poster sessions was by Katherine Johnson, a library student at Dominican University, who compared the setup of library databases to commercial websites, such as Barnes and Noble.

If you’ve ever shopped online, you know that you can start with a broad search and then modify it until you get to the products you want. I’ve included images of two searches below to point out the similarities. One is in Amazon and the other in Academic Search Premier. Both are looking for the keywords stress relief.


There is a dropdown next to the search box that lets you tell the database / website where you want to look. When you find results, there are subject terms / categories to the left of the results. These can help you narrow your search.


Once you find something interesting, you can click the title of the article / product to get to a screen with more information about it. So, if you’re a master shopper online, you already have a lot of experience that can help you in the library.

There is one big difference, though. Amazon will ask you to pull out a credit card. The library databases are already paid for – you just have to go in and pick out what you want to read.

— Sommer & Erin


Comment from Katharine
Time May 9, 2008 at 10:44 am

Thanks so much for mentioning me!

Comment from Kate Peterson
Time May 10, 2008 at 6:40 am

I like the analogy to shopping. From a librarian perspective–I feel more comfortable with the Library databases because I know how they are organized but I sometimes struggle with sites like Amazon. I might have to try taking what I know of databases searching to my shopping.

Comment from Sue Story
Time June 26, 2008 at 9:19 pm

I got an A+ in shop class. (And I got an A in Research Methods!) 🙂

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