I recall spending a lot of time in the library as an undergraduate student. Not only just because I worked there or had nowhere else to go, but also because I took a lot of classes that required X number of scholarly, peer-reviewed sources. Now I can’t be sure but I don’t think I was ever required to take a library seminar or was I even instructed on how to search the library databases as part of orientation. I do know that I had one or two courses where the professor invited a librarian to speak with us for no more than 15 minutes about searching the library catalog and a few of the databases.
Now what does any of that have to do with anything….well, the article “Convenience and its discontents” by Pete Coco reminded me of those blissful undergraduate days I spent wandering the library website. He mentions the single search box phenomenon (that seems to have stemmed from our favorite search engine) and how it certainly helps students find something but whether or not that something is the right thing is another story. Many times it is more helpful to go to disciplinary databases to complete searches than it is to go to the library’s single search box option. This I know from personal experience. My chemistry capstone project was to write a meta-analysis on a topic of my choice. Had we not been instructed on a particular database (SciFinder Scholar), I would have spent the entire semester just trying to find the research instead of writing the analysis. Like Coco says, it’s important to know what type of information is necessary and then utilize library resources that will help you meet that goal. Sometimes it will be the Google-esque single search box and other times it will be a specific database.