Vast Active Library and Information Science blog. From a recent library science graduate in Wellington, New Zealand. A focus on reference and current awareness tools and issues, especially free, web-based resources.

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Thursday, August 18, 2005
Librarians to Google: Stop Being Evil (our buggy whip sales are down)  
Article on NexGen Librarian saying that Google is taking over the role of libraries: " If you needed to know the capital of Mozambique, you used to call the library. Now, everybody uses Google.". Why is this a bad thing? "This is evil because public libraries fill some roles that Google can never fill. If our budgets continue to be cut, there will be no story hours. There will be no safe place for teenagers to go after school and check their email."...

And a message for Eric Schmidt: "Your company does a very good job at indexing the internet. That’s its niche. Public libraries make information readily available to everybody. That’s our niche.... you are currently invading our territory.... If our budgets [are] cut any further, everyone loses. "

Hmmm. Can't say that I agree with this one. If Google is good at answering people's factual reference questions, then let it continue to do that. Criticising Google from the assumption that we have a divine right to continue to perform this role is arrogant.

Either we need to do what we do better, or we need to stop doing it, and let Google do it. And then re-focus what we mean by 'library' - market ourselves on a different basis - the library as place (as described in the article); the library as entertainment source (books on paper are still better and easier to read than books on screen); the library as source of serious scholarly information (books, or specialist databases).

Complaining that Google allows people to answer simple reference questions without recourse to a librarian is ultimately futile. Like the buggy whip manufacturers complaining at the advent of the automobile. We can do things that Google will never be able to - so let's use it as a resource and an ally, and concentrate on marketing our strengths.