Saturday, October 01, 2005

U of T versus Google

In the fall 2005 issue of University of Toronto Magazine, Devin Crawley (MISt 2004) writes an article called The Infinite Library in which he looks at the changes in academic libraries, in particular, U of T's. What I found fascinating was his decription of how Google is influencing universities' digital collections, and how access to those collections is changing.

Google Scholar has been, he says, a wake-up call.
Google Scholar, a service started late last year that's still in its testing phase, is the company's first foray into academic research. It allows users to search collections of proprietary electronic journals and a variety of online repositories of scholarly papers. A Google Scholar search on "exosolar planets," for example, returns 54 academic essays on the subject, ranked roughly in order of the number of times they've been cited. Within just a few months, Google Scholar has established itself as a rival to powerful multinational companies such as Thomson and Elsevier that offer huge (and, for libraries, hugely expensive) databases of scholarly material. Some librarians say that Google underperforms its rivals in the currency and quantity of its search results, while others declare that its simplicity is a huge advantage. "Google Scholar works. And it works in a way that presents very few of the hoops that we make students jump through to use our library databases," writes T.J. Sondermann, an academic librarian and prominent blogger on library issues in the U.S.

The web makes information infinitely easier to find and store. Some librarians quoted by Crawley think the generalist search role should be ceded to Google; some see Google's for-profit status as compromising it as an academic research tool. In any case, the impact on students' research behavior of the sheer ease of searching with Google has led to all of Ontario's universities working together to develop
the Ontario Scholars Portal, a single-box search engine that covers 7,300 electronic journals and 65 electronic indexes. ... the library is about six months away from its ultimate goal of tying its print catalogue, databases and catalogued Web resources to a single search. He admits that Google is innovating quickly, but says that libraries – and the electronic database vendors whose products they buy – are beginning to catch up.

It is an exciting time to do research, as more and more kinds of information become accessible and as research skills and tactics change so rapidly!



Gardner said...

Ah, comment spam: your proof that the world cares....

Really, though, it is a great blog, and the UT material puts this subject into a useful perspective. That single-search scholar's portal is very exciting, even if it won't be available to those of us not fortunate enough to be in the UT system.

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