August 06, 2010

A librarian who loves Google

Writing about web page

It's not that unusual for a librarian to love Google really. We just like to grumble about it as well! Google is brilliant for some things but you do need to be able to use it in a sophisticated way and know when to use other tools if you're going to carry out academic searches.

This article by a young librarian offers a balanced view. Claire Duddy offers her opinion on how we can value Google and get the most from it and I heartily agree with her that this is the best approach. One of the things that always came up in the feedback as the most useful part of my info skills session was the part where I showed students how to use Google Scholar to pick up on library subscriptions, and how to construct proper queries with Google's search language.

Claire offers her perspective on the value of Google...


  • Search engine crawlers navigate via hyperlinks. If your content isn't linked to, they will miss it... and so will our researchers.
  • If you don't use recognised formats for your content, the crawlers will also miss it, although of course they aren't so picky about html only any more.
  • Lots of academic content sits behind subscription or other access barriers. Publishers will often make it accessible to crawlers so that they can charge you to read it, but not all academic content is available to search engine crawlers.
  • Not all academic content has a stable URL, eg those which include your session ID in the URL once you've logged in: this makes it impossible for crawlers to index it. 
  • What you get in your search results on Google isn't always of academic quality or relevance.


  • Academically relevant resources can be found through Google Scholar, even if Google is less selective.
  • Blog content can be found through Google and the Google Blog search tool. This more informal material might be a source of the latest thinking and research results.
  • If you have to be more evaluative about your search results then you will develop important information skills of relevance beyond academia. Such skills have always been needed.
  • The "Google generation" might well be amongst those creating content on the web and so they are likely to be circumspect about what they find there, because they will know it could have been created by people like them.
  • Google is great for searching for basic facts such as "dates, names, places, citations half-remembered". (It is too, and my top tip would be to use Google rather than Google scholar if you half remember a citation because Google is better at finding open access articles.)


  • the 2005 OCLC report on "Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources" asked library users about where they begin an electronic information search, and 84% confirmed that they started with web search engines.

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