Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Open Sources

Here's a cool idea! Make searching better than Google by having a real, live person help you! Wow that's innovation! That's really forward-thinking! That's really ... exactly what libraries do, and have done for years. By phone, by chat, in person. Whatever works.

Why is it that so many people still don't think of the library when they get frustrated doing a Web search? I guess that's what the OCLC Perceptions report was all about - though it annoyed me when I read it, thinking they were dismissing people's genuine interest in books.

I wonder if the problem isn't that libraries are local, and Google is everywhere, always? So many libraries have scaled back on hours and can't answer reference questions exept for the few hours a week they're open - unless they pay to be part of a chat reference service, which costs money and hasn't, so far as I know, been widely adopted by users enough to make a strong case to the bean counters who closed the library in the first place.

If we can't be there to provide reference on line or in person, or are only there thirty hours a week, most of them when people are at work, we'll have a hard time convincing people helping them find information is what we do.

Gee, maybe this guy's idea makes sense after all ....

1 comment:

Laura said...

This summer I've been volunteering/interning at Hennepin County Library and have gotten to know some of the web services staff there. We've had some interesting conversations about this very issue; HCL is trying to combat the "Google is all" mentality, but it seems they are putting themselves to a lot of trouble to do so... such as having 24-hr online reference librarians and even trying to make a Google-like interface for the library's website (it's now in Beta form). I'm excited to see how their work progresses, because it's almost as if they're in the midst of creating the new "online" face of libraries. Cool times, people!!