Reflections on the Value of Libraries

Today’s VOX (formerly known as the D2U) featured a story about the increasing enrollments in CS. One paragraph stood out to me because it equated the importance of learning CS with learning how to use the library.

Dartmouth’s computer science program dates back to the early 1960s, when Professor Tom Kurtz and Professor John Kemeny, who later served as Dartmouth’s 13th president, proposed that the College build a computation center. The two wrote that “whether a student will ever use a computing machine or not, his life is likely to be affected by such machines, and hence, he should know something about their capabilities and limitations. In this sense, contact with electronic brains is as essential as learning to use the library.”

Read the whole article here. I wish the writer cited his source because I’d love to go find it in its original context.

But back to thinking about what value there is to learning how to use the library in today’s world where information is so easily accessible, which leads to information overload. How do you deal with the abundance of information to find the few pieces that are important, relevant, and reliable?

Librarians teach information literacy, which is a set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information. As an example, we work with most Writing 2/3 or 5 classes to introduce first year students to using a research library, including all the logistics. We don’t just find materials for you to use, we also pass our skills onto you. You learn the little tips and tricks to effectively search the online catalog or specialized databases, and discover the various tools to help you organize references and digital files. As you progress in your studies and declare a major, you’ll get to know your subject librarian.

If your question/need is related to information, we can help!

That means we also support scholarly communications — research dissemination, publishing, copyright, etc. A few of us also actively support science communications through workshops on writing with LaTeX, crafting an elevator pitch, creating a poster presentation, etc.

There’s so much more to the library than a place for books and study space. I’ve only highlighted a small piece of what we do so Ask Us!

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