Google

15 Jan

What a loaded word: “Google”.  It’s transcended from a noun to a verb, and has gone from mediocre search engine to internet superpower.  Yet Google is regarded by many information professionals as similar to wikis – decent enough for quick search but useless at worst and suspect at best for any real information need.  Its efforts are constantly publicized, criticized and examined for meaning.  Because of my unique position, being both an information professional and someone who grew up with Google, I feel compelled to state my feelings for it and its resources.

I think most people of my generation can remember when we went to search engines other than Google.  Altavista, Dogpile, Lycos…Google wasn’t the best out there and we knew it.  Google is now much more reliable, but the ante for other search engines like AlltheWeb or MetaCrawler is upped as well; more and more people are finding what they need from search engines because we’re becoming smarter searchers.  The older generations of librarians tend to be suspicious of Google, no matter what form it takes, and we turn to it for ready reference faster than it takes for a patron to roll their eyes.  I like Google for searching, and here’s why:

  • Google Scholar.  This is an awesome tool for getting a quick view of the scholarly literature surrounding a subject, and since it’s Google, it’s not restricted to one library’s OPAC.  Add in that it will help you find copies of what your results are, and it’s a worthy tool for introductory courses in college.  NB: Use other sources as well.  Seriously.
  • Google has resources that pretty much any other entity doesn’t.  Google is dangerously close to becoming its own “sovereign information nation” due to its ownership of the method of communication for governments, universities and individuals.  That translates to lots of dollar signs, enabling them to accomplish spectacular feats.  For more on that, look into Google books and their digitization efforts.  (I may do a post about that in the future, but for now I’ll just say that their efforts are expensive, extensive, and problematic on some levels.)
  • Google gives a face to searching.  If it helps foster a sense of independence in less-savvy users, then it has a benefit regardless of how the patron uses it.
  • Google’s interface is relatively easy to operate, even in the advanced search mode.  It doesn’t operate with standard Boolean if you type into the search box, but you can exclude based on Boolean operators and it’s easy to understand.
  • Google allows for searching within less traditional sources, like blogs.  Not all blogs are worth their words, research-wise, but there are blogs written by knowledgeable and respected people in their industries, and often the topics are more current than published articles.  Because blogs aren’t required to have the strident standards of a journal, you’re likely to get information faster by people who are capable of publishing – this reason is admittedly for more advanced users who understand how to screen their sources, but it’s valid.

So there you have it.  Google makes me happy, if not completely fulfilled, professionally.  Don’t scorn Google, one day it will own your email.

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