I feel bad for the librarians.

26 03 2010

If I had to be constantly barraged with messages like this all day, I think I’d go crazy:

For a student who doesn’t want to swing by the reference desk, there are plenty of other ways to ask a librarian a question—instant messaging, e-mail, a phone call. And now, on a growing number of campuses, students can ask questions with text messages.

Oregon State University is among the institutions that have recently added “text a librarian” services. Though the university just implemented its service this month and has not advertised it much yet, librarians there say that they can already tell it will be well used.

Students text a question to an advertised number during library hours, and an alert appears on the computer screen of any librarian who is signed into the library’s instant-messaging service. The librarian uses the computer to send a text message back to the student’s cellphone.

Margaret Mellinger, an assistant professor and engineering librarian at Oregon State, said the library staff expected that students would ask only questions with quick, simple answers. But they were wrong; one of the very first questions was: “What is the function of interneurons?”

Aren’t questions like this the reason we have Wikipedia? [Just kidding.]

Seriously though, this is one of those stories that makes me depressed. That kind of question is basically the equivalent of texting a librarian to do your homework for you. It’s a sign that the student is too lazy to even get online to find the answer, let alone get the best answer by cracking a few books.

And while I’m in old and cranky mode, I particularly liked this comment at the bottom of that story:

They probably texted “Wut th funct ov intrneurns?”. How can we train students to use correct spelling and standard vocabulary in a text environment?

My campus has a “text the librarian” service too. Next time I see one of my friends there, I’ll have to ask how that’s going.


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