CyberLibrarians on the Web

Librarians do more than shelve books. They organize information and help people find out what they need to know. In fact, librarians are uniquely qualified to play a much-needed role on the World Wide Web.

Finding guides have come to the Web. Never heard of one? A finding guide is like having your own librarian at your shoulder, taking you through the steps regarding where and how to do your research.

Interested in how to research family history on the Web? The Argus Clearinghouse, staffed by librarians (sometimes now called CyberLibrarians or Cybrarians), has a finding guide for you. Actually, sixteen guides on this topic alone! (That is, twelve if you searched "family history" and sixteen if you searched "genealogy".)

(Caveat: these guides were selected for the Argus collection by librarians but were likely not themselves written by librarians, any more than the books on the shelf at the public library are written by the librarians, either. Part of the Argus ratings score is based on how well the librarians feel the guide was done, just as books for the shelves are chosen by librarians based on established library selection policies.)

The guides are rated by the Argus staff regarding "level of resource description, level of resource evaluation, guide design, guide organizational schemes, and guide meta-information". Guides receive a rating of 1 to 5 checks, obtained by averaging scores on these five criteria. Two family history guides listed by Argus had four checks, seven had three checks, six had two checks, and one guide had one check.

Argus Clearinghouse covers thirteen broad categories in all: Arts & Humanities; Business & Employment; Communication; Computers & Information Technology; Education; Engineering; Environment; Government & the Law; Health & Medicine; Places & People; Recreation; Science & Mathematics; and Social Sciences & Social Issues. So you can start by exploring one of their preset categories or you can go straight to the Search/Browse screen and type in your particular terms.

Search engines (and directories like Yahoo!) are great for pinpoint, needle in the haystack searches (such quick facts for that short talk you have to give tomorrow!). Finding guides light the path to in-depth research on specific subjects. Where you really need to zero in on one particular topic (or field) and hope that someone has already figured out where the *good stuff* is on your subject so that you can get started on your research as efficiently as possible.

Finding guides themselves do not contain the information you need but, more important sometimes, where to look to find what you seek! See also AskJeeves, kind of half-way between a finding guide and a multiple search engine site!

Next segment *Accessing Your Uncle Sam!*

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Last Modified: 2/22/99