Monday, November 21, 2005

Notes from Teleconference on Google and Patrons

Last Friday, November 18, 2005, I had the opportunity to view the teleconference "Google and Your Patrons" provided by the College of DuPage's Soaring to Excellence series. Here in Texas, it was sponsored by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Steven Bell was the presenter. In the link to the DuPage's page, readers can find the handouts and slides for the teleconference, so I won't try to duplicate that here. What I would like to do is use this post to make some notes of ideas that caught my attention. Also, I think this teleconference was very timely for me given my recent reading about Google's value.
  • Googleization was defined as a desire to see library resources be more like Google. The idea behind this is to give users the Google experience.
  • An answer to this could be federated searching. In a library setting, this would be searching for content within the library's resources.
  • Being anti-Google will turn patrons off. Instead, use the fact that users are in tune with Google as a teachable moment. I personally found this idea appealing, and it has been something I have been using in my instruction sessions as of late. When I get the question of "why can't I just use Google?" I run a search and use to illustrate some ideas.
  • The concept of libraries migrating to Google was discussed. The idea is to put the library's content on Google. If patrons bypass the library, they can still find the library's content. This assumes they can find it on Google, of course.
  • Remember Open WorldCat. A trick on Google is the typing of "find in library" followed by your search term to locate library results.
  • Other places are experimenting. For example, Gale at Keep in mind that in using this valid subscriptions are required to access content.
  • Some concerns include:
    • What message does all this send to patrons?
    • The need for user education.
    • A positive can be that the content goes to where patrons are.
  • On Google Blogs and other blogs.
    • Use blogs for current awareness and for keeping up.
    • Google has its own blog and there are other blogs that report on Google.
    • Use an aggregator/reader to read the blogs.
    • Steven Bell has a tutorial on rss and aggregators.
    • Remember that keeping up for librarians involves LIS as well as other areas such as higher education, local and national news, popular culture, etc. Look outside of librarianship. I have written about keeping up and reading a few times. Two examples are here and here.
  • Alternatives to Google:
    • Tools like Dogpile. In Dogpile's case, it has a comparison tool. This one can make an excellent teaching tool as it uses a Venn diagram visual to compare search engine results.
    • Another tool is Jux2.
  • Some of the questions from attendants included the following. I am putting notes on them as food for thought.
    • What is the criteria for the content on Google Scholar? Well, Google has not been very forthcoming about this. This may be a reason to be a bit cautious.
    • Is it desirable to have OpenURL with Google Scholar results? From what I have seen in the biblioblogosphere, it can be argued either way.
    • For libraries, an option may be to create a separate Web page within the library's page for listing other search alternatives besides Google such as Dogpile. This page can include small annotations from librarians as to why the tools are good.
    • Who pays for Google? Well, the advertisers. However, it is necessary to note that the company is diversifying.
  • The final thoughts from Steven Bell:
    • Librarians need to develop their expertise and keep it up.
    • Librarians need to preach balance. Don't be anti-Google. I will add don't ga-ga over it either.
    • Create user awareness in your community. For example, do workshops and use blogs.
Overall, this workshop was valuable. For me, it was a bit of preaching to the choir, but I found it to be a very nice supplement to my recent readings. Also, I wanted to hear what Steven Bell had to say given I've had more questions about Google in classes and at the desk. Not a deluge, but enough to want to stay informed. I think for me the workshop was a bit on the basic side; however, for many librarians who are still starting out or trying to stay informed, this was definitely very useful.

On a final note, Steven Bell cites this article by Mary Ellen Bates, an information broker. She wrote a column entitled "You Still Google? That Is So Last Week" for EContent Mag. Her main point is that Google leaves a lot of information out, and if you want to do a better search, you better try other options and be willing to put in a little extra work. The article is well worth reading. Google is yesterday according to the column because it is just not keeping up with the various search options and new ways to make searches work better besides just listing the most popular items found. Two quotes from the article that made me think:

  • "But the backbone of Google's search-results sorting is still Page Rank, and, frankly, it's not keeping up with the content available on the Web. Often, finding the most popular sites isn't what I want; I need to find the most authoritative sites or ones that were evaluated by experts, or I need to look at just one aspect of a topic."
  • "The new search tools that are available do require more work for the user. Rather than just rely on the first page of search results, you are encouraged to look at some of the suggested modifications."


mythrin said...

I'm thinking of a business research seminar comparing what can be found in a reasonable Google search with a search on some of the databases provided by the library. My point: you're aspiring business people, you're after a competitive advantage - why don't learn the skills of how to get an advantage with your information. It's not about bagging Google, but to show that there is so much more.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Thanks for stopping by. That is one of the things I have been doing with students in classes lately: running comparative searches. One way I approach it is in terms of saying, "Google is not a bad thing. It can have its uses, but when compared to a good database, using Google is a lot more work, not to mention all the extra work to evaluate what Google gives you." Besides, some of those business databases contain information you would never get out of Google. One of our new librarians, who was a business consultant before, says some of the company reports on databases would cost hundreds of dollars if you tried to buy them directly or from the analyst. They come with the database as part of the package. Just one example. Hope your plan goes well. Best.