“Generally speaking, we want to teach you how to do your research and not do it for you,” says Kristin Strohmeyer, a Burke Library reference librarian and the coordinator of library instruction. Strohmeyer, who started working behind the reference desk in 1988, has witnessed many changes at Hamilton over the years, not the least of which has been the way the Internet’s advent has transformed research. Library users’ increased ease with Google and electronic databases has reduced the necessity of speaking to reference librarians about research methods.
Some of this ease comes, however, from librarians’ own efforts to make the navigation of the library’s countless electronic resources as simple as possible. “We’re developing our library websites to be easy for you,” Strohmeyer says. For example, Burke patrons can now ask reference librarians questions in a live online chat through the recently implemented “Ask a Librarian” option on the library website.
While access to electronic resources has made research easier, it also presents new difficulties for librarians, who must balance the heightened costs of electronic materials with Hamilton community needs. Strohmeyer, who laughingly admits to once having avoided applying to graduate schools with an emphasis on computers, now embraces the ways in which technology has facilitated library research. But, she says, “I think for some students the serendipitous nature of research is lost. They’re no longer looking through books on the shelves, finding that unexpected gold mine source.”
“It’s a challenge to get students to realize that not everything’s on Google because [they] grew up on Google,” she continues. “But it’s not all seat-of-your-pants research. Sometimes you have to stand up and touch something.”