Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Importance of Using a Proper Citation Format

When I tell people I'm a librarian they, for some reason, assume I kick back and read books all day. Now while I do get to read quite a bit it's not really of my own choosing, For example, literary criticism on Roald Dahl isn't something was well versed in until a student asked me for help. Same goes for anything to do with psychology or sociology (two classes I managed to sneak out of taking in college by taking more history/political science courses). Or I get to read exciting stuff related to the librarian profession, riveting! I actually don't get to do that as often as people seem to think.

Instead I spend probably spend more trying to find something for someone else to read -an article on a novel or a report on some sociological problem. This is pretty standard for librarians: find something on a topic to help the patron research further and understand said topic better. That's probably, like, 85% of the job. Sometimes though a patron will not only know what they want (an article, a book, etc.) but they'll have a specific title or author. Sometimes they'll even have a citation, which, makes my job so much easier.

Now the thing is book publishers and periodicals all have different ways of formatting citations such as footnotes, endnotes, in-text, bibliographies, etc. and the actual citations formats (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.) used create an endless combination. Kind of like pizza toppings or ice cream flavors. But not pizza flavored ice cream cause that'd be gross.

Usually, their in some sort of comprehensible format which helps to facilitate the finding of information quickly. I'm sure there's some library school word for it but I've forgotten it. Accessibility? Findability? Anyway, as seen here just because the publisher puts the author's last name and published date doesn't make the source easy to find. That Davis & Needham source published in 2009 is a good example.

It's either a book, journal article, or dissertation about the TV show Alice. That should make the search easy: just search a catalog or database for with the authors as Davis, a new author field below that for Needham, the keyword as Alice, and the publication date as 2009. Done! Search! Except well, wait, what if it isn't an article in the database? It won't show up. What if it isn't a book MCCC or the MCL doesn't have? It won't show up. And I'm pretty sure they don't let two people work together on a dissertation. The Alice keyword is great but if the database or catalog doesn't do full text searching and Alice isn't in the title or abstract it won't show up. Wonderful.

This is why having a properly cited source is so gosh darn important. Again using Davis & Needham. They're the editors of the book that the source is referring to. There's a different author for the specific chapter and page number that citation is pointing to. If the publishers just went with a standard MLA or APA or Chicago format I could have found this book chapter and requested it or found it in the stacks or whatever significantly quicker. It's not like 2009 was the dark ages. The iPhone came out in 2007! Come on guys!

The point is: having a properly formatted citation saves anyone looking into your sources loads of time and headaches.

Monday, June 11, 2018