Thursday, March 04, 2004

BI- not Business Intelligence but the other one: Bibliographic Instruction

I'm stunned by "normal" people's inability to understand databases and information retrieval systems. Then again, I was trained as both an engineer and a librarian so my astonishment is perhaps not surprising.

After training a number of people on BI systems, I have some pedagogical ideas.

1. Train people on "formats" i.e., What's a book? What's a journal? etc. Without some recognition that various formats exist advanced BI just doesn't seem to work.
2. Teach people about parts of various works: title, publisher, author, serial numbers, indexes, tables of contents, etc. I think that people typically take these things for granted and are then unable to understand their significance.
3. Provide instruction related to subjects. It seems like a simple question: What's the work about? But people always seem to have difficulty. There are, of course, issues caused by epistemic communities such as polysemity but people should be able to describe a few concepts.
4. Booleans. I know that a number of people feel that we shouldn't have to teach people boolean logic and that our IR systems should obviate their need. Still, boolean logic forces people to experiment with concepts and this skill is crucial regardless of the system used.

Just some thoughts.

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