(Continued thoughts from my post on the topic.)
The analogy– Google = “White bread,” means that Libraries = oh let’s say “Gluten-free whole grain with caraway seeds on top.”
If this analogy holds, why would someone choose the unhealthy, cheap, and nearly flavorless selection when they can have something baked fresh, flavorful, and which probably won’t make their stomach turn (the person analyzing their research will play the stomach here)?
Well, there may be several answers to that, which may include cost, accessibility, relative satisfaction, and most importantly familiarity. Why do I say familiarity is high on the list over things such as cost? Well when everyone seems to be using the same bread to make many types of sandwiches, it becomes second nature to expect that to feed your hunger. I mean if you were looking at a menu and someone said “white bread it” for nearly every selection, wouldn’t you sooner or later just start eating it all the time?
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In the London Times Online, a recent article reported on a speech given by Tara Brabazon of the University of Brighton. Dr. Brabazon was cited to have made the analogy of Google being “white bread for young minds.” Further stating that the younger generations of students are too quick to accept the quick and easy research results they find on such tools as Google and Wikipedia. To correct this error, Dr. Brabazon doesn’t allow her first-year students to use either of the aforementioned tools in their research, but only 200 or so peer-reviewed journal articles selected by her. Though this action may help develop the students ability to evaluate found resources and to apply the information which is most relevant to their project; the students didn’t truly learn anything about the actual process of searching for those documents.
In essence, by telling the students that these sources aren’t worthy of academic consideration and then handing them a stack of selective articles only further removes the students from performing a critical action in research–exploration.
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With the announcement of Google’s new Knol Project (see my related post here) and the many advancements in book digitization, a discussion has popped up as to whether any proprietary “book search” will ever be as easy for users to grasp as “web search?”
In one corner, Tim O’Reilly made a comment on another blog’s statements (Booksquare.com) regarding the future of each company scanning books with different business models. O’Reilly seems optimistic in hoping that one day the separate entities will come to some parity and allow their holdings to be readily indexed by the major search engines. In his words, “Search engines should be switchboards, not repositories.”
If you haven’t already heard of the proposed knowledge base by the folks at Google, you may want to take a look at their blog site. From their Dec. 13th posting, their main goal is outlined:
The web contains an enormous amount of information, and Google has helped to make that information more easily accessible by providing pretty good search facilities. But not everything is written nor is everything well organized to make it easily discoverable. There are millions of people who possess useful knowledge that they would love to share, and there are billions of people who can benefit from it. We believe that many do not share that knowledge today simply because it is not easy enough to do that. The challenge posed to us by Larry, Sergey and Eric was to find a way to help people share their knowledge. This is our main goal.
I think this will be an interesting endeavor and should stir up the pot of authorship and the web even further. At first it seems like Wikipedia with celebrity authors, but the main selling point is that the authority of an article belongs to the “highlighted” author. Though Wikipedia articles have the screen names of their editors in their histories, the Knol project will make that author known up front and without question.
I guess this may be a chance for students to start using a Wikipedia-like information source, without worrying about the authority of the author. I must admit that the presentation is much easier on the eyes, from a design standpoint, but hasn’t added much to the mix. I did prefer the Know citation section, as it is much easier to read and makes backtracking the citations that much easier.
I am curious to see how they intend to tackle the selection of authors. Invites are hard to come by during this beta phase, so maybe the end result will be a bit easier to grasp.
I would love to see how well their other information sources will interact with this resource. Imagine searching for a topic and being given not only the Knol entry, but any results in Google Scholar, Google Books, Photos, Movies, Patents, or even openly shared Google Docs. I just hope their “machine” can learn semantic association before I am getting questionable videos in my search for an article on “nude mole-rats.” Not that I am into that kind of thing…
Using Google Docs no longer needs to only occur on your desktop as the latest versions feature a Mobile option. This means that those of us without an I-phone can access, edit, and share documents at any time.
Also this week came much needed updates for Google Maps for Mobile devices. Now many phones can easily access and view map data.
More locally, I have become enamoured with the latest Google Maps Street View for the Pittsburgh area. Yeah I can easily go and walk down the same streets, but sometimes a virtual stroll is just as nice as a real one. (Save for the benefits of actually leaving my desk.)
From a BBC technology report, a study from comScore relates that Google is the most dominant search provider in the world.
Users performed more than 37 billion searches via Google, more than all the other major search engines combined.
This may seem disheartening to many in the library field, as this means that users are becoming more and more reliant on Google for their information searching needs. I tend to believe that even though this may seem shocking to some, it lights a path towards where our thoughts on library search designs should progress.
I blogged in an earlier post about Firefox extensions designed to lead a search on Amazon, or any other service utilizing ISBN’s, back to your own library holdings. This helped if your library was included in the list of accessible library catalogs, but even this didn’t help connect journal articles to library holdings. There is a Firefox extension which helps bridge that gap.
The Open URL Referrer links citations in Google Scholar, Google News, or any site containing COinS. The extension allows you to set up your full text service (SFX) and then allow the search results to link themselves to your holdings. This may seem like cheating the library, but the re-resolved link takes you into the library service point and not the direct article. To me, if the users are already in Google looking for citations, why not give them a way to jump directly into your library?
Whether we start designing our OPAC interfaces more akin to the Google way, or if we start redirecting users back from Google, the truth is that the big G isn’t going to be going away anytime soon. So why not make the best out of an estranged relation?