"I certainly never write a review about a book I don't think worth reviewing, a flat-out bad book, unless it's an enormously fashionable bad book." --
says, John Gardner in Conversations with John Gardner
Quoted from 'Dictionary of Library and Information Science Quotations'     Edited by Mohamed Taher & L S Ramaiah. ISBN: 8185689423 (New Delhi , Aditya, 1994) p.150. Available @ Amazon.com

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Research Virtuoso: To improve teen's research skills beyond googling for school and for life

Research Virtuoso is researched and written by Jessica Rovito and Peggy Thomas of Toronto Public library. One may ask what is Virtuoso? And, what is the meaning of the word in the title of this book. About the word, Virtuoso, OED says:

noun (plural virtuosi /-si/ or virtuosos)

  • 1a person highly skilled in music or another artistic pursuit:a celebrated clarinet virtuoso [as modifier]:virtuoso guitar playing;  2a person with a special knowledge of or interest in works of art or curios.

PS. The book has an explanation (p.2), summarily stated to make the reader a Research Virtuoso, who is above the average researcher. One may ask: if reading makes it possible to do and be done with research it needs patience, aptitude, persistence and reading the full book of 122 pages--the book meant to help "a research paper that is due tomorrow". What are the facts about today's reading habits of the teens, esp., for whom the bell tolls???

We are left to imagine the factoid, and also as to why it has such an artistic title, instead of an expressive title (that precisely tells you that this book is based on the lessons learnt in real time), e.g, a) Toronto's Public Library's Best Practices in Teen Information Literacy; (b) A facilitators guide to research needs while using Toronto's Public Library' !!!
Summary: Looking for information and not sure where to find it? This lively guidebook can help! Learn how to decide on a topic, focus your thoughts, make notes, skim, evaluate sources, and present your findings. Plus, discover how to access special collections and private libraries. As a master researcher, you'll have the inside knowledge you need to be effective and efficient at finding anything-not only on the Internet but also in the real world. Researched and written by two professional librarians at the Toronto Public Library, this book captures their extensive experience in education, writing, research, and working with teens. The Research Virtuoso is a must-have in today's information-rich world, where being a critical consumer of information is a key to success. Book jacket.

The book has four sections: "Getting Ready: Preparing Yourself for Research", "Digging In: Locating Information", "Taking Stock: Evaluating and Processing Information" and "Getting It Out There: Communicating Your Research".

While most library's research guides are expected to be used by the end users, the sad story is they are not. Research Virtuoso in this sense is good for the trainers in public library environs. For an experienced user it may be handy and its understanding can be supplemented with lectures, discussions, and hands-on training. Library jargon and techniques are no more simple, and hence the end-users cannot read the book A_Z and complete their assignment. (See below: Searching Is Polarized). Hence, supplementing is very pertinent here. Most public library users need guidance/customization and that too in person, and in this is the continued value of a library today. As well as a competitive edge in Google's Age. Another strength is its variety and diversity of resources: checklists, lists, diagrams, and Grab and Go templates in order to accomplish the desired ends.

Information literacy tools are essential and this book adds to the existing treasures. Information literacy tools were non-existing in public library world. But, with the trend to diversify library services and be inclusive, public libraries are stepping into the shoes of academic/special libraries, albeit with caution/partnership. That is the good news, and more such food for thought is at the bottom of this page.

There are at least seven printed book reviews' praising Research Virtuoso (as indexed at the publisher's site); indicating its popularity in the information industry. All the reviews including the online reviews (1, 2 and 3), praise endlessly with no word about its weakness. Thus, it lies in the eyes of the.... to know the facts?

Apart from trying to be too broad in its approach, Research Virtuoso tries to include every thing from good-to-know to must-know information for anyone who is teen (in a school) or an adult (looking for an academic assignment help); in explaining all possible dimensions, i.e., from its own printed documents (inside the box) to online domains/search engines (subscribed or unsubscribed) and thence to human sources and how to handle such scenarios when you may meet in writing your assignment (totally outside the box).

Hence, one weakness is its title. If the book is limited to teens (intended audience is lost in the information maze; but obvious with a little scratch and little more dig), then the title of the book must be clear to reach the right audience. Another weakness is it tends to be an academic research guide (meant for school/college/academic assignments) from a public library desk (as a tool for lifelong needs)--trying to fit two distinct information literacy strategies / practices--into one size fits all type of book. This academic bias is clear from the book: "In addition to consulting library users and staff, the library gathered valuable input from instructors and  librarians in academic institutions" (Jane Pyper, Foreword, p. vi ).

Furthermore, a public library (e.g., here Toronto Public Library) does not subscribe to PsycInfo and LexisNexis Statistical; whereas these are the only two databases listed (p. 50). Course reserves or short term loans is described (p. 46); whereas this is a term used in academic libraries, not in public libraries (popular magazines in the public library may be an exception for use of short term loans, but such pop magazines are not a recommended source for school assignment!!!). No doubt a book by librarians is not 'read' nor in 'great demand' by end-users or Others; at this moment of writing this review, of the 69 copies only four copies are checked out from the Toronto Public Library. Adding further complexity to the book's extent and intent, is a comparison of Archive and Library, taken from yet another academic library's perspective (e.g., here York Univ., p. 56).

Suggestion: In another revision of this book, the editors could categorize and design it with a purpose to help one collection segment or one audience at a time. Further, they may also consider a document-type categorization and explain only  that which is in public library, e.g, printed/online resources, archival resources that a public library might have (e.,g genealogy and digitized primary resources a public library has), etc.  Since, most of the resources in Research Virtuoso are based on Toronto Public Library, it would be better to add a little more value by citation (indicating the shelf or branch or collection type).

Recommend this book: Yes for librarians, library users and the rest. But, other public libraries need to replicate this content and design it in their own environs. By the way, this book is not a substitute for Thomas Mann: The Oxford Guide to Library Research.

On the same shelf: 

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