"A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again."
Librarians tend to be aware of the importance of these lines by Pope. We may not know a lot about the subjects we deal with but we do know that there is a lot to know. That's one reason why we tend to be cynical about about tools such as Wikipedia. It's not that it is wrong, it's just that it is a very shallow draught.
This applies especially to subjects such as medicine and law. It could be dangerous (or at least expensive) to become intoxicated by a shallow understanding of these subjects. As a result librarians tend to be wary about providing this information. On the other hand there is clearly an obligation on public libraries to provide users with access to good quality sources of information. Citizens have a right to the information they need to make informed decisions.
In an article in Legal Information Management in 2007 (1) I pointed out that that although there is no shortage of on-line legal information resources it can still be difficult for many people to get access to the information they need through public libraries. This is the topic that will be addressed by the SINTO training day Sources of legal information and advice for a general reference library. Librarians from the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University will be providing a guide to sources of information with a focus on free and on-line resources. The day will begin with an introduction to the English legal system so that delegates can understand the context and will finish with a presentation from the Sheffield Law Centre about legal advice services. The day will also be useful to librarians in academic and other specialist libraries who want a general introduction to the subject. More information can be fond here.
Reference librarians in public libraries have always needed to be generalists but they do need to have specialist knowlege as well. This SINTO course will enable them to drink deep from the Pierian spring.
1. Clayton, C. Too much information... nor any drop to drink. Legal Information Management 7(2007) pp101-103 Link