Toronto Public Library Homepage

This page has been archived and is no longer updated.

« June 2013 | Main | August 2013 »

July 2013

Use of the alphabet as a surprise tactic in information services

July 29, 2013 | Ranald | Comments (0)

I surprised a user once by how fast I found something in the index of an encyclopedia, then found it in the encyclopedia. I wasn't especially fast. I thought he must be surprised at how I went from the index to the volume the topic was in. But the surprise he expressed was at how fast, letting the volume's pages run past a thumb, I found the article.

It seemed to be a surprise at how well I knew the alphabet and I went away pleased with how well I still did (by dint of reciting it, at an early age, morning and night, "and not in that sing-song voice, please; nor, when you come to W, in that theatrical manner").

The alphabet organizes reference tools like indexes. Library users were expected to know such tools better in 1943.

That was the year Lulu Ruth Reed published her survey of how well "464 Freshmen, 66 Sophomores, 68 Juniors, and 52 Seniors" did know them. ("Do colleges need reference service?" The Library Quarterly 13:3 (Jul. 1943): 232-240.)

Oddly few of her expectations are our expectations though our collections are still full of the same kind of reference tool hers were.

She expected students to be familiar with the "characteristic features of the best-known unabridged dictionaries." They weren't. 15% didn't know that synonyms were included. 20% didn't "understand the significance of the two keys to pronunciation" in one of the dictionaries. 50% didn't "understand the effect of arrangement of illustrations on their utilization." This last is a sore point. "Lack of a marked progression from Freshman to Senior is also noticeable, particularly on the question dealing with illustrations."

Similarly detailed are her other expectations about the use of encyclopedias, the selection of sources specific to the question, the recognition of the fields of knowledge that topics fall into (which she sees as a prerequisite to understanding Dewey classification), bibliography, and evaluating the "authenticity and relevance" of sources. E.g. she expects students to know the names of the editors of important reference books, that a preface gives the scope of a book, what the function of a newspaper editorial is.

She's disappointed.
  • "Such universally used tools as encyclopedias are inadequately understood."
  • "The poorest showing was made on the question that tested sharply the date of information included in the several books."
  • "Only a small percentage of students were able to select the most specific source." "The tendency revealed is reliance on general reference sources."
  • "Whatever success [students] may have in locating material is due more to chance than to association of topics with broad fields of knowledge."
  • "The functions of indexes and tables of contents are not clearly differentiated."
  • "There were also many failures [...] in differentiating between articles by and about a person."
  • Students are unable to select "the most authentic and relevant source" for different types of information, statistical, historical, etc. "One point of interest is the number of students who indicated fiction as the best source."

She throws up her hands: "it is possible that the failures may be explained partially by the tendency of students to rely upon color of binding or position on shelves in locating books used for reference questions". We laugh. We don't have her expectations, at least in detail. But, without them, we lose a sense of the kind of instruction we could be giving while giving information service. We also throw up our hands.

Her disappointments, mutatis mutandis, seem less odd than her expectations. If we don't expect users to know how to use the index of an encyclopedia, we think it useful for them to know and are ready to show them. We think it useful for them to be able to evaluate resources for currency. To use the most specific source. To know the difference between a source by and a source about someone. To recognize authoritativeness.

It is impossible to read an article about information services (recent articles, anyway) without reading that everything, with the internet, has changed. Not everything has.

Naxos Music Library Jazz

July 11, 2013 | Mary-Beth | Comments (0)

Looking for jazz music downloads?  Naxos Records started as a large independent classical music label and has recently released Naxos Music Library Jazz.  This database contains over 7,500 jazz titles from Naxos Jazz and over 200 other labels such as Blue Note, EMI, Fantasy and Warner Jazz.  The genres included are contemporary jazz, jazz, blues, nostalgia, and world jazz.

0077778135753Browse by label, artist, composer (including lyricist and arranger), genre, and the time period the recording was added to the database library.   You can also browse from the play screen of an album by clicking on the names of the composers and artists.  You can also search by keyword or perform an advanced search.  Results show the artist/title of album and catalogue number. Click on either to get to the play screen.

Try creating playlists of album tracks. Click on Playlists and sign up for an account. A user guide on playlists is available after you activate your account and log in.  Don’t forget to download the free app from iTunes.

Naxos JazzFind the Naxos Music Library Jazz database through the Toronto Public Library’s A-Z list of all databases Sign in with your Toronto Public Library card and start enjoying more jazz today.


Welcome to the Information Services Blog! Visit often to learn about useful tools, collections and other resources to help answer reference questions. Get the scoop on new and innovative trends and services. Join us and send us your feedback!