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Are Libraries Relevant In The Internet Age?


Julie Gammack


A keyword search on a search engine can generate thousands of links to Web sites with those words. Sifting through the results can consume days, where a query to a professional librarian can cut right to the chase.

Sharon Schmidt Stewart ’ 66 , a librarian for the University of Alabama, has had students spend hours combing through garbage on the Internet before finally coming to her for assistance. Within five minutes she points the student to what he or she is looking for.“Sixty percent of what’s on [popular search engines] is just wrong,”says Stewart. Stewart’s comments were echoed in conversations with other Cornell alums in the library science field, including Kathryn Blue ’67 and Ann Joslin ’ 74.

Enter the age of Cornell’s consulting librarian, a guide on the front lines of the information literacy movement.

Today, the transformation of Cole Library is in the very organization and staffing of the institution. Head librarian Jean Donham is the driving force behind this transformation. She had the opportunity to hire three librarians and has restructured the positions so that each of the consulting librarians has become an expert in her respective field of information and in turn has become a consultant to the students and faculty members who have an interest in those areas.

Consulting librarians are Corey Williams Green (social sciences), Michelle Holschuh Simmons (arts and humanities), Mary Iber (sciences), Donham (education and physical education), and Toru Chiba (educational technology). Chiba works out of the library’s Multimedia Studio where he assists faculty and students in making effective use of technology for teaching, learning,and scholarship by providing expertise and resources for multimedia production.

“Corey Williams Green is my partner in helping my students,” says Allin. “Students get to know Corey as the ‘go to’ person in this [political science] field. She straightens them out and helps them find and evaluate information. For every course I teach, we spend at least one day in the library where Corey introduces them to the awareness of information literacy.

“There is no question that times are changing and libraries need to change. Any time there is a transformation in technology, libraries need to transform as well.”

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