Posting to NGC4LIB
Bernhard Eversberg wrote:
They [i.e. Google – JW] know much better than that, obtaining the collective results of a century of library work for free. Not just the catalog data from OCLC (without which they couldn’t be as good as they are with the known-item search), but it is obvious that to get carefully built and maintained collections for scanning is worth immensely more than using just any stuff found in the vaults of antiquarian bookstores or wherever.
I really want to believe this, but I’m not sure if you could find general agreement in the current environment. I have been looking very carefully at the Google Book Search interface because I think that once the Google-Publisher agreement is eventually approved, the Google Book interface will become the starting point for research. Why wouldn’t it be? I know that back when I was a student, I would have absolutely loved it!
But when you examine the Google Book interface closely, it’s quite frightening for a librarian. For example, the “cataloging information” is mashed-up and placed on the very bottom of the “About this book” page, precisely the spot where Google knows no one will ever go. But above the bibliographic metadata are just the sorts of tools *right now* that librarians are talking about developing, e.g. links into word clouds, reviews, mapping into Google Maps, and so on. They already exist, and done very well, I might add.
In any case, it is rather difficult to know exactly what is being searched in the Google Book Search text box (does it search the bibliographic metadata?) and more importantly, how the results are arranged for viewing. And I don’t know how many people use the Advanced search, which of course, does not use authority files, so you get different results for “Dostoyevsky / Dostoevsky / Dostoevskii” and on and on.
What will be the use of a local catalog work in the kind of environment where people will be able to go to Google Books and get millions of things with a touch of a button? Why will we still expect these people to use our tools when they will find plenty to keep them busy in Google Books?
I don’t know. I think we can offer many things Google will not be able to, but we have to reconsider what it is we do very deeply. We may encounter some very unpleasant truths. It won’t be easy to grapple with much of this however, and that’s why I appreciate people like Alex who can help us figure out some of these new directions.