Monday, May 4, 2015

What would I do without BadgerLink?

Guest post written by: Dr. Catherine Arnott Smith, Associate Professor at UW Madison School of Library and Information Studies.

I am a former librarian – a medical librarian with experience in both corporate and academic settings – but I teach a required class at the UW-Madison i-school focusing on information retrieval, both in commercial library-licensed databases and on the Web. Because it’s a required class, I have a one-room schoolhouse of students. Some are aiming at libraries like the ones I worked in myself, but others want to work with kids in schools, or young adults and adults in public library settings.

In an age where too many people believe “it’s all for free online,” my work is cut out for me. Some of my students came from undergraduate programs in which they were never taught how to use a database. Others insist no public library has commercial databases. And still other students know public libraries have databases but are not sure who would use them or why anyone should care.

"Without search skills, information is locked inside a black box."
Image from Pixabay
For me, online searching is an important component of intellectual freedom. The citizens of this country deserve to have access to information that affects their lives. All libraries, whether they serve schools, community colleges, universities, corporations, or the general public, need to have professionals on staff who can help people of all ages find the information they're looking for. Without search skills, information is locked inside a black box.

BadgerLink serves as a common platform for me as it does for the citizens of Wisconsin. With BadgerLink, I can demonstrate to my classes that (1) some databases are useful across library types, (2) state funding is important to make sure these databases reach their target demographic, and (3) databases can be and are useful in settings that might surprise you. In addition, I can use techniques from commercial databases to highlight what Google can – and can’t – do for 21st century librarians.

What would I do without BadgerLink? I have no idea.

Written by:
Dr. Catherine Arnott Smith, UW Madison School of Library and Information Studies