Friday, November 8, 2013

Words have meaning! Google is not a verb!

This week I attended the FEDLINK Library Expo held at the Library of Congress.  More on that another time.
During the course of the day I had an epiphany. A speaker referred to an article and she said "Google it". 
How many years has it taken me to come to this notion?
We have to stop using Google as a verb.  The verb that we need to use as librarians is "research".
Google is a great tool.  I use it all the time for personal and professional research.  But it isn't the only tool in my tool kit.  We have proprietary databases that we pay good money to access.  And there are other Internet search engines that might be more appropriate that Google.
Anyone with Internet access, a browser and a finger and type something into a Google search box and hit enter.  And s/he will get upwards of 100K results.  Have at it!
But is that how I want my librarians or my patrons to spend their days - culling through hundreds of results pages?
I'm an older guy - I did research before there was an Internet.  Sometimes I would go into the library with a question and the dictionary might hold my answer.  Or maybe I needed an almanac, or an encyclopedia.  Sometimes I needed a journal article or a research paper or a book.
Nowadays I still go to a library albeit an online research page - and I still have to make the same decision.  And, we've all heard and said this before, it isn't all available for free via the Internet. 
Some things are.  Dictionaries abound on the Internet.  There are plenty of free almanacs.  Many research papers are retrievable.  But if you want that research paper as it appeared in print - in a peer reviewed journal you'd best have paid access to the publisher's database or to JSTOR.
The edits that are made between the research paper and the what is printed in a journal may make all the difference in the world.  And before I make economic policy or release an environmental impact statement I would want to make sure that I was using the correct resource.
I thank heaven that there are smart men and women who can program and descsribe and tag so that we have search engines like Bing and Google and Ask and Yahoo.  But I also understand the limitations of those search engines.  And I recognize my own skills as a researcher that goes beyond what Google and the rest can do.
In some ways I'm preaching to the choir - but we downplay our knowledge, skills and abilities when say "Google" rather than "research".

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