October 29, 2006

Choice in the Library

Heard another *terrific* TED Talks podcast (and no, I have NO affiliation with Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED) at all -- I should be so lucky!) about the value of choice in our lives. From the TED Blog: "Barry Schwartz is a sociology professor at Swarthmore College and author of The Paradox of Choice. In this talk, he persuasively explains how and why the abundance of choice in modern society is actually making us miserable."

My interpretation of what he said is that no choice is bad. Some choice is good. Lots of choices is really bad. Problems with too many choices include: lingering doubt ("maybe I should have bought both the black *and* the navy shoes. Why!! didn't I buy the navy shoes, too?!") and self-blame if the choice doesn't pan out ("darn it! I would have been so much happier if I'd bought the navy shoes instead of the black shoes") -- you can probably imagine more. Or you'll listen and hear Dr. Schwartz' ideas.

That's the interesting cog-sci element. But, as happens so often, cog-sci does meet lib-sci: we offer our patrons so many darn database choices -- it's no wonder they are confused and prefer Google. Not only is the search box simple, but the *choice* of which search engine to use is pretty simple, too.

We should make a greater effort to simplify our patrons' choices. Perhaps this is heresy; listen to the podcast and you might change your mind.

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