When we’re young and naive, we think that Google knows everything, from climate change to competitor data, from media impressions to military intelligence. If it’s not in Google, then we won’t find it anywhere. Thanks, and have a nice day.
This unfortunate misconception is the plight many libraries face today: How do you reclaim your library from the overpowering presence of Google? This question isn’t just a philosophical question. Authoritative sources of information that libraries subscribe to (yes, actually spend money on) are searched by uniformed researchers 16% of the time. This is a paltry number compared to 94% of researchers who will begin their search (and often complete their search) on Google or another generic search engine when looking for authoritative information.
Brainwashing powers aside, Google has captured researchers with speedy results that seem to be the “right” results every time. And, to give credit where credit is due, Google is an amazing, ever evolving search engine that is the perfect search for everyday queries. It also is an excellent place to start broad research that doesn’t need to be supported by vetted information.
But there comes a time when researchers outgrow Google…
Libraries are central to a researcher’s quests for knowledge. They should be a font of information, housing books, magazines and catalogs, and directing researchers to the external resources to fuel and deliver on these information requests. Maturing and expert researchers who realize that Google falls short of their information needs shouldn’t be limited by a library that isn’t vehemently countering the Google myth. A self-aware library will be asking these questions:
- How do we support our researchers in their quest for authoritative information?
- How can we make it simple for researchers to transition from Google to more authoritative sources?
- How do we ensure that our authoritative information sources are getting found and used?
- If we have a single search of all of our information sources, are they being ranked in an unbiased way (unlike Google with popular ranking)?
Google has made the search and retrieval process easy. Good search engines follow that pattern too – simple and elegant, yet robust.
If you’re a librarian facing Google encroachment in your libary, consider resurrecting yourself to a position of authority. Find a way to go the distance for your researchers.