Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Google can't replace Librarians because Patrons don't go beyond the front page.

Last week on the info desk, I got a call from a paralegal 1,000 miles away.  She was referred to the library and my branch specifically from someone she talked to at the "county clerk's office."  I could tell that she only phoned us out of sheer exasperation and she didn't expect me to really help her.  She lead in with, "I don't have much information, but I just wanted to see what you can find," --- Challenge accepted.

She was calling from some law firm and she only had a first and last name, with a partial address and phone number.  It was basically the same information you would get if you Google someone's first and last name and are shown a bunch of sites that promise to give you that person's complete information for a nominal fee.  You know what I'm talking about, don't act like you haven't Google-stalked someone before!  Well, this is obviously the farthest she tried herself before she called the county clerk's office.  Her phone call to the clerk's office was unfruitful and I honestly thought to myself, "If they couldn't find anything and they have all that info, I'm not sure what more I can do."   I don't know why she called my branch, there are three other branches that were closer in proximity to the partial address, I can only narrow it down to kismet because quite frankly, if she got any of my other coworkers, they probably would not have offered to go as far as I did.

She asked if I could check any of the phone directories we had.  It honestly took me a second to remember where they were located, they don't get much use --- shocker.  I wasn't able to find anything in them and again sounded like she expected that result.  I told her that I would be off the desk in 5 minutes and would be more than willing to search further for her and the response I got was equivalent to, "Sure, kid, if you want to give it a try, go ahead."  No lie, it took me about 5 minutes to find the person's full address and phone number using several sites on the internet and the county's public information on land taxes.  To break it down, 2 minutes to find the information and 3 to verify it.

Could a non-librarian have found the info, yes.   Anyone could have if they knew how to research properly.  With the glut of information on the internet and some search results equating to hundreds and hundreds of page results, patrons rarely make it past the front page.  In my email to her, I told her how I went about finding and verifying the information --- the whole teach a person to fish proverb.

After I got her response telling me how "great" I am, I was almost half tempted to ask if they were hiring...

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