Monthly Archives: July 2007

Searching and salt

Library instruction can occasionally be a lot like the experience the Ben Stein character has in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. That is, despite all of your efforts, the students just kind of stare at you, mouths agape.

Every so often you have what they call a “teaching moment.” It’s when you and the student(s) are in sync. They suddenly get it. You can see it on their faces.

It’s a great feeling.

So I’m teaching a class on Evidence-Based Practice, which can be a dense subject. It’s lecture too, even worse. But they’re with me. They’re asking questions. I’m getting feedback. It’s going really well. The class being all women, I use my shopping analogy for searching. Basically here’s how I put it:

When you go shopping for clothes, most people will tell you that the most efficient way to do it is to TRY on the clothes first. See if you like them. See if they fit. See if they are what you want. Don’t just buy a bunch of things and take them home, because chances are you’ll only have to return them. So when you’re searching, you have to use the same approach. LOOK at your results. Do they work for what you need? Do you like them? Do they FIT?

Class loves this. We’re onto search techniques. They’re taking notes. They’re asking more questions. And we get into the advantages of doing all your searches on one line versus breaking them apart and adding them later. I use my cooking analogy:

It’s like cooking. You can always add more salt, but you can’t take it out if you’ve added too much. So sometimes it is good to–

“Just add a potato.”

Now I cook (hence the analogy) and I’m intrigued by this. As, I might add, are most of the class. Turns out that if you throw a potato into a soup or a stew or whatever it will absorb the extra salt and you can just dispose of it.

I managed to recover the class by saying that as far as I knew there was no equivalent to a potato in the Ovid interface.

Humbling moment that was…