or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Linking from the Catalog to Google Books

   May 24th, 2011

Today I'd like to gather peoples' opinions about something.

This coming weekend my consortium is migrating to the Evergreen ILS - so we're down to the wire to decide which features to launch with and which to turn on later, or not at all. One feature libraries are divided over is including a link to Google Books.

The link shows up in two places (below are some screenshots, but you can also test it live on our demo server). First and foremost, it displays for almost every book on the search results page:

Link to Browse Google Books in Evergreen catalog

Secondly, for some records (although not all), there are additional links to Google on the item details page - sometimes the "Google Preview" icon appears under the book cover, and sometimes the "Preview" tab occurs at the bottom. When patrons click that tab, the book's preview is embedded right in the catalog. I haven't figured out the rhyme or reason behind the Preview tab appearing - not all books have it, even books that are available free online.

Google Books preview embedded in Evergreen catalog

I'd really like to know what other people think about including these links in the catalog. For me, I knew instantly how I felt, but have been struggling to put my reasoning into words. Here goes:

  1. Google Books "Preview" tab on item details page
    • should stay
    • it is clearly adding value to the catalog and providing a service for patrons, to see into the book online
    • should be improved to include all books that have preview or full text online
  2. "Browse in Google Books Search" link on the search results page
    • should be removed
    • I don't like how prominent it is - more noticeable than our "Place Hold" link
    • from my testing, about 90% of the books with this link do not have any kind of "view online" option - which means this is nothing but a "buy it online somewhere" link
    • as far as I can tell, even though we're essentially linking to a bookstore, we're not getting any kind of kickback from driving sales to them (and away from our collection)
    • should we be linking to a bookseller at all? If so, why not the local bookstore instead?
    • when there is no online preview, all the Google Books page offers is reviews, similar books, and some other information - all of which we already have in the catalog
    • doesn't the link imply endorsement and approval of Google Books?
    • isn't the Google Books project still tied up in courts to determine how legal it is?

So this is basically where I am - what do you think?

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14 Responses to “Linking from the Catalog to Google Books”

  1. Kathy Says:

    We just installed Polaris as our new ILS at the beginning of April, and we now offer a link to NoveList Plus directly from search results in the catalog. We’ve been paying for the NoveList database for years, but patrons didn’t know about it. Then in the past week I’ve noticed a change: patrons now don’t even have to click on the link to NoveList, instead the database provides reading suggestions directly as part of the details of each catalog item. Cool! (and plus, we’re not pushing them to purchase books from a disinterested 3rd party)

  2. Gem Says:

    I agree that there isn’t much use in showing a link to Google Books from the summary screen, particularly if most of the books don’t allow searching within the text. Even if it did allow searching within the text, I feel it would be more appropriate on the full bib display.

    I do like the Google Preview option on the full bib*.

    Regarding whether or not to link to any bookstore, this is something I’ve been struggling with for our system. About half the time I look up a book in our catalog I immediately go to Amazon to look up more info about it (we have reviews from LibraryThing which are good but Amazon almost always has more). It would be very helpful for me personally to have an Amazon link in our catalog. However, I have reservations about how appropriate it is particularly if we don’t link to “local” book stores also. Yet, I looked and we don’t have any local book stores that have a good web presence within our district (we don’t even have physical chain bookstores anymore as our Borders was closed).

    Somewhat off-topic, does Evergreen have an option to display a persistent link to the record? My husband keeps complaining because there isn’t an easy way to add it to our HIP catalog. He’d like a persistent link for when he sends out book club selections.(It’s something on my list of things to fix some day but that’s a very long list.)

    * Bug report: The Google Preview doesn’t appear to load when I click on it from _It Happened One Autumn_ (ISBN 0060562498). After I clicked on it, the copy info disappeared but was just replaced by a blank white screen where the preview would normally show. I tried with both IE7 and Chrome 11.0.696.68. I tried multiple times and being patient and waiting didn’t help 🙂 It worked ok when I tried a different title. If I go directly to Google books, and search for _It Happened One Autmun_, it does appear they have a preview for it that loads ok.

  3. Oleg K. Says:

    I think keeping the Preview link is a good idea, but I’m in agreement with your thinking that it should only be there if there is a full text or preview link. Otherwise, there’s no benefit to the user other than the occasional review.

    Two issues I had while playing with the system:
    1) I’d like the links to Google Books to open in a new tab or a new window. That way I won’t have to click back to go back to the catalog entry.

    2) The breakdown of where the books are on the item detail page is a little wide. This screen is 1024×768 using IE 8 and I have to scroll over to the right to see the last one or two columns.

    Otherwise really nice.

  4. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Kathy: My library just signed up for Novelist Plus (non-fiction) and Novelist Select (puts Novelist info right in the catalog) to coincide with the ILS transition – although it’s a separate product, we’re going to promote it to patrons as a new catalog feature – which it is, from their point of view – and hopefully a great one.

    @Gem: Thanks for the bug report – I tried it and see the exact same thing you do. I’m not sure why it’s happening, but I’ll report it. Since everything we’re seeing so far is on our testing server, and is still in development, I’m not sure how well it reflects what our actual launch version will look and act.

    As for offering a permalink, that is something I and other reference librarians in the consortium have been asking for since the beginning of this process. I’m not sure if Evergreen offers it or not, honestly, but I don’t think we have it turned on if it does. However, it was only last week that we found out what our catalog URL is going to be, so perhaps that needed to be fixed before the permalink structure could be set. I hope so, because I do use it also.

    @Oleg: 1) That does make sense (especially since speed is not one of Evergreen’s strengths right now)

    2) This has been my biggest complaint so far. As a patch, I think we’re dropping the last two columns, which will hopefully eliminate the need to scroll, but I still think that entire display is confusing. In the fall we’ll be getting a whole new look for the catalog (it’s just not ready yet), and that “scoreboard” display will be gone, replaced with something clearer. Check out the King County catalog for a preview.

  5. ChiLibrarian Says:

    You might be interested in this post on the LibaryLaw Blog regarding privacy and Google Books: http://blog.librarylaw.com/librarylaw/2011/04/reader-privacy-update-association-of-research-libraries-sends-in-comments-to-ftc.html

  6. Marnie Says:

    In the best of all possible worlds Google Books would display ONLY if the title was available there in full text and ONLY if the title was not owned by the consortium….or perhaps if all copies were checked out. I tried looking up 2 Google Books that I have been using. “Lynn” by Foley comes up nicely, but Ipswich owns a copy that I’m sure they would like to circulate. I first located it by doing a Google search for a Lynn business that interested me. The other title, “The History of the Fifteenth Connecticut Volunteers….”, {http://tinyurl.com/3pralwx) doesn’t come up because it isn’t owned by any MVLC library. If I’m looking for a book that MVLC doesn’t own, I still have to go to Google Books. “Save the time of the Reader” doesn’t work.
    I don’t believe that a catalog should link to any bookstore since one can’t possibly link to all. Guess that goes against saving the reader time, but I’m retired. I don’t have to be consistent, do I?
    Keep the link to Google Books off. You can always add it later.

  7. laura k Says:

    Hm. We used the Google Books API to provide book cover images on our search results page, and under each cover was a small link to the Google Book page for the item, even when there wasn’t a full-text preview available. I found this link to be really helpful: even if you can’t read or preview the text online, I liked the reviews, TOCs, and whatever other information was available. And I liked, personally, that it linked to Amazon: It gave me a quick way to decide if I wanted to buy a book versus check it out from the library. More often than not, I chose to check it out from the library.

    I totally understand the issue with linking to Amazon versus a local bookstore, though. It’s a tricky issue. I guess I usually figured the more information we can provide, the better. It’s not like we’re forcing people to buy it from Amazon, or from Google, or even to visit the Google page, by providing the link. We’re just giving them the option.

  8. laura k Says:

    Oh also, congrats on the migration to Evergreen! I hope the process has been going smoothly (enough) for you all. 🙂

  9. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Marnie: I think I would actually like it if full-text-online books showed up in our search results, regardless of whether any local library owned it. I can’t imagine having MARC records for every full-text Google Book, Libvrox recording, or Project Gutenberg book, but why not? I think it would really benefit patrons. And you’re right about always being able to add it later.

    Oh, and by the way, librarians never retire – they just become full-time patrons.

    @laura: It might be that Google’s API (and maybe Amazon’s too) require links back to them – in which case, it’s okay, because that’s the cost of using their free service. But everything they offer except full-text – covers, TOC, reviews, etc – are all things we’re paying for from other services, so duplicating them just to get the zazz of Google seems confusing and redundant. To me, anyway.

    But the book store thing is trickier. I do think it’d be helpful to patrons to link to a local bookstore, because I often have patrons come to the library first, and if we don’t have the item they say, “well, I’ll just go buy it then because I need it by X day.” Linking to a local bookstore makes sense, because it addresses a patron need – it tells them right now if it’s worth a drive to the bookstore. However, linking to Amazon doesn’t really help, because they still have to order it and wait, which might take as long as requesting the book from another library.

    And thanks for the encouragement about Evergreen. D-Day is the day after Memorial Day, and I’m sure I’ll be posting our experience with the launch.

  10. Marcie Says:

    The titles that are electronic could be delineated better. It’s confusing to see a title but no holdings (and no copies listed in the three columns on the right). The results list and the record summary do say “electronic remote 1 online resource” and there is a link to “Connect to this resource online,” but there is also an option to place a hold. What happens when someone types in their library card number?

    For example, “Complete Digital Photography” (ISBN 9781584507116).

    On the record summary, the “Place Hold” link could be more prominent. I had to hunt for it the first few times I played with your catalog.

    BTW, I’m in Central Mass, and we’re moving to Evergreen this fall. Thanks for putting up your links and letting us mess around! I might have more comments later, but for now it’s nice to be able to experiment with a live system.

  11. Marcie Says:

    Told you I might have more. 😉

    Does your catalog not tell patrons when items are due back or how many people already have placed holds? Did your old catalog do that? Because those seem to be basic functions to me.

    (Sorry, I just realized I’m responding to your post about Google Books when I have general catalog questions.)

  12. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Marcie: I agree. Our developers have been holding off on too many catalog style changes, because we’re supposed to migrate to an entirely new look in the fall – so since that is all “temporary,” they’re currently focusing their development time on some of the serious problems on the staff side.

    It does now show the date a book is due, but it takes like three clicks to get there, which annoys me (but hopefully, that will be improved). I don’t think patrons can easily see how many people already have a book on hold, but that is supposed to be added fairly soon – that’s been the #1 patron request since we launched.

    Hopefully we’ll get a lot of this stuff worked out before you guys launch, so you’ll have less work to do (but still plenty, I think). We’re also trying to work out all the bugs we found in communicating development suggestions and priorities, because that’s been bumpy for us too. It’s a whole new deal, running everything ourselves, but it’ll definitely (eventually) be better than our old vendor model.

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