Hillcroft LRC

The Google Shelf

Posted on: August 21, 2015

We mostly turn to Google when in need of a piece of information.

What is the date for the next bank holiday? (factual information) Who is my MP? (current information)…What is the definition of psychology (subject specific information)?

What did people do before Google? Often they went to the library quick reference shelf. This section of a library or LRC is for consultation only. The books are often heavy tomes because they include many many lists and indices. You have dictionaries, encyclopaedias, almanacs, atlases, handbooks and more. The books on the quick reference shelves aren’t intended to be read cover-to-cover. Instead you can find specific information by looking up a key word (such as date, name or place) in the index which points to where the information is in the main pages (which then may point you to other books to be found elsewhere in the library).

One key thing to bear in mind about Googling is that companies can make a lot of money when you click on the link to their website, there are some extreme examples as to how Google results are not to be trusted. Many of the links are commercial and the information may not be that relevant or authoritative enough for study purposes. Quick reference books are more reliable sources of information than most of the results that Google conjures up. This is because, in getting published regularly, they have gone through a very careful selection and editing process by experts. However you have to keep your critical thinking hat on when looking at all information sources.

Quick reference books need a bit of getting used to again. Most people have forgotten how good a reference book can be and the skills to use them. Although a bit old, a really useful book is the ‘Guide to the use of libraries and information sources’ which offers great advice on using reference books. One illuminating idea is that: “…research begins when the first encyclopaedia the student consults fails to provide the information needed to answer a question or to carry out an assignment, and it becomes necessary to consult several sources.”

We have lots of dictionaries and encyclopaedias on specific subjects with new ones arriving every day at the moment. Don’t be put off by library terminology, the quick reference shelf could be thought of as a starting shelf much like we turn to Google to answer quick queries.

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2 Responses to "The Google Shelf"

Just read this and it is really interesting.

Thanks Rosie, the reference shelf is full of interesting information.

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