Do Librarians Think Google Should Die?…11.24.08

24 11 2008

Stephen Abram’s (SLA President) pointed out the commentary on PC  Magazine’s thoughts on whether Google should die [http://stephenslighthouse.sirsidynix.com/archives/2008/11/why_google_must.html] is worth consideration:

“Interesting point of view . . .

Why Google Must Die by John Dvorak, PC Magazine (Nov 17)

I’ve been talking about this for years. Too many library folks say they they want all of our OPACs, federated search, and web site search engines to work ‘just like Google’. Indeed some of the more shallow ones actually implement the Google yellow or blue boxes in their institutions or communities! I have heard that at least four U.S. states have served up their state portals to Google alone.

Should we give up, raise the white flag and just go Google? To that I respond:

OK, which should I implement first:

1. Should I start manipulating the search results of library users based on the needs of advertisers who pay for position?
2. Should I track your users’ searches and offer different search results or ads based on their private searches?
3. Should I open library OPACs and searches to ‘search engine optimization’ (SEO) techniques that allow special interest groups, commercial interests, politicians (as we’ve certainly seen with the geotagged searches in the US election this year), racist organizations (as in the classsic MLK example), or whatever to change results?
4. Should I geotag all searches, using Google Maps, coming from colleges, universities or high schools because I can ultimately charge more for clicks coming from younger searchers? Should I build services like Google Scholar to attract young ad viewers and train or accredit librarians and educators in the use of same?
5. Should I allow the algoritim to override the end-user’s Boolean search if it meets an advertiser’s goal?
6. “Evil,” says Google CEO Eric Schmidt, “is what Sergey says is evil.” (Wired). Is that who you want making your personal and institutional values decisions?

I still remain amazed at how many library folks are unaware of (or choose to ignore) exactly how Google makes billions of dollars in profit alone every year. You serve your primary customer and Google’s primary customer is not library end users (or searchers at all). Meeting the ends of advertisers and growing your revenue to meet the demands of the NYSE vortex.

Now libraries should be asking what creates a good saerch result that meets th end users needs – the big question research where the questions begin with ‘why’ and ‘how’ – not the simple who, what where, when Google searches. .Can they be as simple as Google? Should they be as simple as Google? Might thought, talent and learning be involved versus simple information transactions?

Libraries should be creating the third way – the one that doesn’t serve the needs of advertisers, politicians, special interest groups, etc. – the one that lifts people up in learning environments and communities.

And they should be training users to be aware of the algorithms behind Google and all the search engines.

And they should find their voice to talk to their host institutions and communities about their role.

If we don’t, . . .”

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2 responses

25 11 2008
Do Librarians Think Google Should Die? | Library Stuff

[...] The Proverbial Lone Wolf Librarian’s Weblog – “I’ve been talking about this for years. Too many library folks say they they want all of our OPACs, federated search, and web site search engines to work ‘just like Google’. Indeed some of the more shallow ones actually implement the Google yellow or blue boxes in their institutions or communities! I have heard that at least four U.S. states have served up their state portals to Google alone.” Posted in Google | | Top Of Page [...]

25 11 2008
Steve Oberg

Hi John,

You make several great points. But I think overall I have a very different perspective about the “let’s be like Google” movement. Sure, it is highly important for us to be aware of and concerned with Google’s interests, i.e. financial. But focusing on this leaves out something HUGE: that is, that Google’s search experience blows almost everyone else’s out of the water. Is the fact that they are so good at it in order to make money necessarily a bad thing? I don’t think so.

Google has gotten to this stage with a huge amount of ongoing R&D and a commitment to excellence and the user experience that far outpaces its competitors, at least so far. Google is obsessive about the smallest details, e.g. how long a search can take on any cell phone. They understand that if they do not satisfy user needs, they are out of business.

It is this focus on the user experience that I think you are missing in your assessment, and it is this aspect that is missing almost entirely from most anti-Google sentiments among librarians that I’ve read. Simply put, I unashamedly advocate a “do it like Google” approach for the reason that they work so hard to make things work the way the vast majority of users want them to work.

Is their approach perfect? Of course not. Should we be concerned about their dominance? Of course. (Just as we should be concerned about OCLC’s dominance, e.g.) Should we always keep in mind what the driver for them is (profit via ads)? Sure.

But to say that Google is evil because they are profit-oriented is a straw man’s argument when it comes down to search functionality.

Steve

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