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Magazines > Information Today > January 2003
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Information Today
Vol. 20 No. 1 — January 2003
Internet Librarian 2002
Search Strategies and Information Professionalism
by Marydee Ojala
Interestingly, Internet Librarian's track on search strategies didn't have a whole lot of information on how to construct a Boolean strategy. Perhaps we've moved to a post-Booleanera. Perhaps it's just that speakers who've been doing Boolean searches for years think it's so obvious that it's not worth mentioning. InsteadChris Sherman explained the nuances of Google, including various field-searching syntaxes and special features. Gary Price and Blake Carver compared their blogs, ResourceShelf ( and LISNews ( As they demonstrated the mechanics of uploading new material to their blogs, I wondered what those outside the room must have thought when these very strange messages appeared online. Content is definitely going to the blogs.

Mary Ellen Bates' talk on difficult reference questions could have been titled (with apologies to Man of La Mancha) "To Answer the Unanswerable Question." She categorized these queries as ones in which no one knows the answer, analysis is needed, the answer is subjective, very few people care, there's no chance of an answer, the question is unclear, or it's an incorrect citation. Having said that they were unanswerable, the inimitable Bates then proceeded to show how to answer them. Impossible dreams? Not to a super searcher. My favorite tip from the presentation was her suggestion to ask clients, "If I can't find exactly that, what would be second best?"

Anne Mintz's rather sobering presentation concentrated on Web sites that are intended to mislead unwary searchers. She began with a Martin Luther King site that is highly, but subtly, biased against Dr. King. She then moved on to the McWhortle site (, the "home page" of a fictitious company that was created by the SEC to warn folks against investing without complete information. Mintz pointed out that just because a site sports a dot-org URL doesn't mean the information found there is unbiased. As checkpoints, she suggested determining a URL's ownership by using something like or, examining which sites link to the site in question, and looking at a site's content for lack of balance.


Marydee Ojala is the editor of ONLINE. Her e-mail address is
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