I’m about to write another assignment. This must be about my 40th serious assignment of over 1,500 words requiring academic research, looking for good peer-reviewed studies, reading through 1,000’s of pages to try and distill exactly what is being said, whether it is of relevance (directly or tangentially), and once I’m finished that to pause and think and think and think and try to come up with some new insights, some different ways of applying the theory, some critiques that go beyond the obvious.
So why am I, Anno Domino / Common Era 2015 STILL spending so much time on the library database doing silly work. Honestly, those who lead academic libraries and who run academic databases please tell me why this isn’t easier, faster, more streamlined? Is it me? Am I doing something fundamentally wrong?
Yes I know how far we’ve come and how much easier this is than 10-15-20 years ago. Yes I also studied in the days of micro-fiche where you didn’t even bother finding articles because it just went into the box of “too hard”. But we do have the tools now and we have progressed further so there should be no excuse as to why the “stupid” work is taking up so much of my time.
Right now I’m looking for good literature on “Classroom Libraries” as opposed to “libraries” in the use of space and resources. I put in a federated search. At the same time, I search Google Scholar. I open tabs of dozens of potential articles, reject many, decide to proceed with some.
As you all know by now I’m a huge fan of Evernote. I put my entire life, but particularly my academic life into Evernote. And as I stuff it full of articles, I also at the same time put the citations straight into Zotero, (my citation manager of choice – yes I know there are other new ones like RefMe that everyone is raving about, but Zotero has served me well and they’re very responsive to comments and suggestions). But WHY oh WHY is it still such a pain to get an article in a PDF format, a citation into a RIS format and both tucked up securely into the bedding of choice?
Time for some pictures … follow the captions for what I’m trying to say
NOW … If I ran the circus …
Let’s be completely impractical and totally utopian. See the top photo in the top left column? I’d add two buttons to each entry:
* One click *.pdf download (with tagging allowed)
* One click *.ris download
because you see, as long as I can get the article, I don’t give a &*^*&^ (insert expletive of choice) which database it comes from. Just give the me the pdf. With a sensible name like the title. And believe me, I don’t have the time or patiences or hard-drive to keep articles that are of no use for me, so I read the abstract and delete.
Another circus I’d like to run – those learning modules. I’ve been around the block a bit, and I’ve seen inside libraries. A certain academic library that shall not be named in a town that shall not be named has a whole department dedicated to copying articles for coursework for their students who then get a bundle. Hard copies. Trees dying.
At CSU we judiciously just add links to the articles in primo, which the student then has to click on and go through the whole rigamarole highlighted above. Oh for heaven sake, just stop the pretence and put the articles into subject reserve in pdf form. Who are we kidding that this is meaningful work or adding to knowledge? And then the links that don’t work, and instead of everyone going off and sleuthing how to find the article and thereby actually learning something, there is just a host of complaints on the boards that the article isn’t there. Finding coursework articles that have been pre-selected by a lecturer does not a good student make. And we’re foolish to pretend it is so. The success is in the seeking out of related material from other fields and dimensions that may not be thought of, in finding links and relationships, and then seeking those articles and selection and casting aside and applying that to the task at hand or real life that is the mark of the better student.
So now I’ll get back to the boring work. And just as an aside mention – the databases that do it half ok? ScienceDirect I always like – clean and easy and good with recommendations on related articles. Proquest isn’t bad, and I like their little sidebar extras like seeing how many articles in which years / decades so you can see the rise and fall of fads. EBSCO and JSTOR you’re ugly and clunky and too-many clicky and I avoid you as much as possible.
And here’s an open invitation – if all this is my own stupid fault because I have nary a clue what I’m doing, please comment and tell me so and let all of us know a better way.