August 27th, 2011 Brian Herzog
This isn't a real reference question, but it's kind of related and I thought people would be interested.
When I was reading The Atlantic article about people not knowing about Ctrl+F, the last paragraph mentioned Google's AGoogleADay.com campaign. I had never heard of this, but it's basically a Google game - here's how they describe it:
The couple questions I've done have been fairly simple, and taken only minutes to answer (although one I had the right answer but Google kept telling me it was incorrect - it might be picky about the format you use to type in the answer).
I enjoy games and challenges like this (librarian!), but it's not like we need to go out of our way to find them. But something I liked about AGoogleADay was that, when it gives you the answer, it also tells you what Google thinks is the right way to find the answer. It's never matched my search strategy, but like they say, "there's no right way to solve it."
To prevent players finding the answer after someone else has posted the question, the game is powered by Deja Google - it's a "wormhole inspired time machine [that] searches the Internet as it existed before the game began ... Because nobody wants someone's recent blog post about finding an answer spoiling their fun." Good thinking.
Something else interesting was the link to Google Inside Search. I'd heard that Google retired Google Labs, and Inside Search seems to be, not exactly a replacement, but a new method for Google to introduce their new tools. My favorite part was the timeline at the bottom, that shows you exactly when different tools launched.
So if it's a slow day at the library, or you're a library student looking to hone your reference skills, give it a try.
July 5th, 2011 Brian Herzog
Last week I received an invitation to join Google+ (Google's version of Facebook). I don't use Facebook and don't entirely trust Google so I won't be creating an account, but it did get me wondering: does the internet need another Facebook?
Usually when I'm online, I'm looking for an answer to a question or a solution to a problem. To visualize that process, and hopefully provide some context for a new social network, I came up with this Venn diagram that identifies the available various pools of people...
Based on this, it seems like Google+'s goal would be to make the green circle bigger - but I don't think that's what happens. Closed networks, like Facebook and (I presume) Google+, at best only make their portion of the green circle bigger, but often don't even make it into the green circle at all*. This can actually make it harder to find answers, as homopholy might keep us using the most convenient resource, instead of the most appropriate one.
The important thing to remember is not to rely on one tool for everything - closed-loop social networks are good for keeping in touch with friends, but open forums like Ask Metafilter, Ask Slashdot, or Quora are better for non-social answers (but okay for those, too).
So with that, the question is: is Google+ a better way to keep in touch with friends? It seems like the answer would be "no" if the critical mass of your friends are already on Facebook (and unlikely to switch, or unlikely to maintain both). But from initial reviews (also this), it sounds like Google+ has some cool ideas, so its real impact might be gauged by how quickly Facebook adopts the best features.
And the next question is: have any libraries started using Google+ to connect with their patrons?
*Note that one of the qualifiers is "people who know what they're talking about" - a social network might make it easier for me to get my question out to people I know, but it doesn't help if no one I know knows the answer to my question (which might just indicate that I socialize with the wrong people).
August 31st, 2010 Brian Herzog
Sometimes when I am working on a post, I wonder if another library blogger has already covered it - an am afraid I'll look kind of dumb rehashing something.
So I thought, wouldn't it be great to set up a Google custom search engine to search all library-related blogs? Before I did, I checked if anyone already created one, and it turned out Library Zen had - four years ago (I'm even further behind than I thought).
LISZEN Search searches over 500 library blogs, and has an accompanying wiki to keep track. If you write about the library world, add yourself.
Something related that would also be nice is a custom search of just library websites - so it would be easy to quickly see what other library's policies are regarding ebooks, or circulating laptops, or how much they charge for printing, etc. But considering the breadth of libraries and the complexity of maintaining it, just using regular Google might be more realistic.
Tags: blog, blogs, co-op, cse, custom search engine, google, librarian, librarians, libraries, Library, liszen, public, search, Websites
August 21st, 2010 Brian Herzog
This question might get me into a little trouble* but it's a good example of the importance of librarians, so here goes:
The phone rang, and the person on the other end said she was a librarian fresh out of library school, working at elementary school in Colorado, and having trouble locating some poems her teachers wanted for class. She knew the titles and authors, but couldn't find the actual text in her library or online. She called me because she likes my website and hoped I could help.
My first suggestion was Granger's Index to poetry - it wasn't in her collection but was in her local public library. But because online resources are more useful for these long-distance questions, and it was a very quiet afternoon at work, after we hung up I thought I'd try searching for the text myself, too.
The four poems she was looking for were Eating the World, Last Kiss and Statue by Ralph Fletcher, and Spaghetti by Cynthia Rylant. I started by searching for title/author combinations, grouped together with quotes (ie, "ralph fletcher" "eating the world"). I was somewhat surprised that, even after going through the few pages of results, the texts weren't there.
Then I thought maybe they were scanned as part of the Google Books project, so I clicked the link on each page to switch to searching Google Books (see image above). And if I was surprised at not finding the texts in a regular web search, I was doubly surprised to find they were the first or second result when searching Google Books.
So far, including the phone call, this all took me literally less than ten minutes.
I emailed the four story links to the librarian, and she replied that they were exactly what she needed. So that's nice.
But I do think this is also a nice example of why librarians remain relevant in the internet age - an inexperienced searcher may not have known to enclose the author names and titles in quotation marks, or may not have known to try the more specialized Google Books search when the first attempt produced no results (keeping in mind that there are also lots of non-Google tools available, too), or may not have recognized the answer even though it was in a form other than what they were expecting (these poems turned out to be short stories).
This is especially true in light of the recent Northwestern University study that shows "digital natives" aren't actually all that web-savvy. The study's results seemed to imply that kids expect the internet to present them with the answer to their question, rather than expect to be engaged in the information search and critically evaluate resources themselves.
My favorite quote:
During the study, one of the researchers asked a study participant, "What is this website?" The student answered, "Oh, I don't know. The first thing that came up."
If it were someone from the iGeneration searching for these stories, it seems likely they would have stopped after the first search, empty-handed. So, yes, there certainly is, and will be, a need for librarians and experienced information searchers.
*Since I work in a public library, my tax-funded salary is intended to be spent on helping local patrons. It's hard for me to say "no" when people ask for help, but I do not (and ethically can not) make a habit of helping other librarians with their questions on work time - unless, of course, I'm contacted to check a resource my library owns. There are forums that can help with questions like this, such as Unshelved Answers
, the PUBLIB mailing list
, the Internet Public Library question form
, Ask Metafilter
, and many others
of varying degree of credibility. Something I love about librarianship is the collaborative and cooperative nature of the profession, but I guess there has to be limits, too.
Tags: google, google books, libraries, Library, poem, poems, public, Reference Question, search, searching, stories, story
June 24th, 2010 Brian Herzog
I passed this church sign while walking around Ottawa:
I'm used to hearing the "Google is not as good as libraries" rhetoric, so it was funny to see another profession facing the same struggle. By the way, Bibles in my library are shelved at 220.5/Bibl - maybe our slogan should be, "find a library, find your way."
June 1st, 2010 Brian Herzog
I read last week that Google is now offering an encrypted search option, and was surprised the story didn't get more coverage.
Anyone wanting to use it needs to go to https://www.google.com (note the https , and it appears it only applies to web searching - not images or the other searches. Read more at:
This is good for those library patrons who want extra privacy while searching the internet. However, online privacy increasingly seems to be an illusion (remember, Google will still see and track these searches - this just cuts down on other people monitoring the searches).