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Magazines > Online > Nov/Dec 2004
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Online Magazine
Vol. 28 No. 6 — Nov/Dec 2004
HOMEPAGE
Expect the Unexpected
By Marydee Ojala • Editor

My reading habits, as I suspect is true of many information professionals, are eclectic verging on eccentric. If you looked in my (physical) mailbox, you'd find magazines devoted to librarianship, information technology, pharmaceutical industry, computers, travel, audio, video, news, arts, culture, geography, photography, business, and journalism.

One personality characteristic that draws people to our field is insatiable curiosity. We are the grownup equivalent of the small child constantly asking, "Why?" Rather than irritating our parents with incessant questioning, we turn to the Internet, which never answers with a frustrated, "Just because, that's why!"

In the world of the curious, pattern matching is second nature. When the same type of story surfaces in technical magazines, professional library journals, and today's news, we recognize a trend. Some of these intersections are not all that surprising. When doing a bit of background research on RFID for an upcoming meeting of the Indiana Online Users Group (IOLUG), I expected to find articles on library and retail stores' use of the technology. I expected the technical aspects of RFID to show up in the computer press. The similarities between retailing and a circulating library collection are frequently overlooked by information professionals, and I've often thought over the past few decades that we're far ahead of the technologists in applying technology. Public policy issues surrounding the technology were more common than I expected, however, indicating that our adoption of RFID should be cautious.

When articles about Google moved from the technology and library magazines to the general press, what I expected was superficiality, naiveté, confusion, and misinformation. I was not disappointed. However, I've also been pleasantly surprised to read some in-depth, extremely accurate explanations of both the technology and specific Web site informational resources. One particularly impressive one, I realized when I checked the byline, was written by the magazine's librarian. Well no wonder it was correct and authoritative! I loved the article, written for journalists, bemoaning their lack of rigor in challenging government's removal of information and chiding them for not following the lead of librarians in challenging The PATRIOT Act.

What really grabs my attention is when I'm reading an interesting article and suddenly realize it's in a publication I didn't expect: an article about hacking in a customer relations magazine; methods to determine student plagiarism in a news magazine; or highly credible Web resources in a photography magazine This is the type of serendipity we appreciate when searching large aggregators such as LexisNexis. It's the "I didn't know that group was interested in this" syndrome, which is frequently the trigger to refine a search strategy or investigate alternative sources. Expecting the unexpected comes naturally to experienced researchers, but might be confusing to novices. Leaving ourselves open to serendipitous results, not restricting our searches to where we think the answer is, and relying on our instincts, not just logic, are important information professional behaviors.


Marydee Ojala [marydee@xmission.com] is the editor of ONLINE. Comments? E-mail letters to the editor to marydee@xmission.com.

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