Sunday, October 15, 2006

Thoughts about Google

When reviewing my blog stats, I've been surprised at how many people find this blog by searching for some combination of Google and libraries (see previous post). There is certainly a wide-spread interest in how Google and libraries are going to interact in the current and emerging information environments. During my (brief) career in field of librarianship the projects I've worked on have had very different interactions with Google.

2004: I was working at Harvard College Library when Harvard announced that Google would be scanning select materials from its libraries. As a member of the Imaging Services department, I was very interested in how this would influence future directions of the department. Imaging Services had already been scanning books for several years and was aware of many of the problems encountered during the digitization process. Would Google digitize to the same standards? And how would the department stay relevant if Google's output was so much greater?
  • Regarding standards, it seems that libraries are still holding themselves to higher standards than Google. Reports of missing pages, thumbs in images, and lack of accompanying metadata for Google Books show that librarians' attention to detail still differentiates us from Google. However, it is possible that Google will find innovative solutions to these problems. When and if they do, I hope that we will be ready and able to learn from them.

  • Regarding relevance in the age of Google Books, the librarians I worked with were confident that we would stay relevant. One of our most important roles as librarians is bringing collections together and providing quality information for our patrons. At Harvard this is realized through collections like Women Working and Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930. Pulling together related resources is a defining characteristic of librarianship, and one that Google will probably not be attempting.

2005: My next experience with Google was with a small digital library project. Most of our users found our website by querying Google. The benefits that Google and other search engines bring to these types of projects is tremendous. Most of the visitors to our website were not regular patrons of the library, were searching for specific items, and wouldn't have found the website without Google. This does, however, raise the significant point that Google is not yet comprehensively indexing the invisible web. When I submitted our OAI-PMH url to Google site maps, our site was crawled more thoroughly, but still not in full. I believe that as Google refines its indexing, this will become less of a problem.

2006: I currently work on a registry of digital projects that includes an item-level metadata repository of metadata from some of the projects. Included is the ability to search with more refinement than one can search with Google. Future directions the project hopes to take include offering added-value services. Another influence of Google is in the design of the website. Users arrive at a new site with habits learned from experience with other sites, and Google is a major presence on the web. Many of the conventions created by Google directly influence the website design and layout.

This past week I attended a lecture by Siva Vaidhyanathan titled "What's an Author to Do? Google, Digitization, and the Future of Books." He proposed that there are four main players in the information environment that directly interact with Google: Publishers, Readers, Authors, and Librarians. These four entities are not separate; everyone participates in all of the roles, but all of the roles interact differently with Google. My varied experiences in libraries certainly support this point--my thoughts about Google are influenced by each project's interaction with Google.

The topic of Google and libraries has also been addressed in a recently published book: Libraries and Google.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

New job!

I've recently accepted a position with the University of Illinois Digital Library Program. I'll be Project Coordinator for this project. After spending the past year working in a small department in a medium sized library, I'm excited to move to a larger research environment. I've also been commuting 180 miles each day and crossing a time zone from Urbana, Illinois, to Terre Haute, Indiana, and I'm very excited to work in the same town that I live in. I'll start my new position in the middle of September.

This week I've also been playing piccolo with the Philharmonia A Vent, and will be recording a CD at the end of the week.

Saturday, June 03, 2006


I recently had my first experience on the other side of the hiring table, and I thought I'd share what I learned from the experience.

If you are asked to fill out a form, be sure to answer all of the questions. If you don't have time to fill out the form, I don't have time to sort through your application.

A personalized cover letter gives a good impression! If you've at least taken the time to put the job name on your cover letter, I'll take more time to read through your application.

It's possible to be over qualified. I hadn't realized this before, but if I have a simple task that needs to be performed, and you have many additional skills, I might worry that you won't be happy performing the simple task. As a job applicant, this is something that is entirely out of your control, but don't take it personally if you aren't hired.

One of the most important considerations when hiring a new employee is how that person will interact with the rest of the department. New skills can always be taught and learned, but in order to maintain a good working environment, personalities must be able to exist together. When interviewing for a new position, be sure to demonstrate that you are able to work well with others.

Most importantly, don't be discouraged if you aren't offered the position. Many factors influence the final decision, and the people doing the hiring may feel that the position isn't a good fit for you. Keep looking and good luck!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Copyright conference

Yesterday I attended a copyright conference at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. The speakers presented topics relevant to libraries and the copyright law, specifically sections 107 (fair use), 108 (libraries and archives), 109 (transfer of copies), and 110 (performance and displays, relevant for distance education).

Jule Sigall from the U.S. Copyright Office gave an update on the Report on Orphan Works. The report recommends that if a user has "performed a good faith, reasonably diligent search to locate the owner," and is unable to locate that owner, then they are free to use a copyright protected work without permission. If the copyright owner finds and objects to the use, the infringer will not be held to a monetary compensation, as long as "the infringement is performed without any purpose of direct of indirect commercial advantage." If this legislation passes, libraries will feel more comfortable distributing their vast collections of orphan works.

Kenny Crews discussed Google and Fair Use. He expressed the personal opinion that Google Print should be considered fair use, but acknowledged the fact that legally it can be argued either way. I think that providing access to books through any means can only help the publishers and authors. I've bought books from Amazon because of a hit on a keyword search. How many people would want to read an entire book online anyways? I also won Crews' Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators in a raffle, and he even signed it for me!

In the final open discussion of the day, one of the moderators stressed how important it is for librarians to keep on top of digital developments. He said that Google is changing everything, and if we're not all ready to drop our job descriptions and learn new skills as necessary, we're not going to be able to keep up. I'm excited about the challenge, and welcome new developments!

Friday, March 10, 2006

The changing role of libraries

This week I've been attending the Visual Resource Association's annual conference. The VRA professionals see themselves as closely aligned to librarians, but a separate profession. Today I attended an interesting discussion on the changing role of visual resource professionals and was able to observe how a closely aligned profession views the library community.

Visual resource curators have spent the last several years connecting to their institution's libraries for support and resources, and now they are beginning to question the wisdom of this alignment. They see that libraries are having an identity crisis and don't want to go through the same issues. Librarians are seen as being disconnected from their patrons, and the VR curators take pride in the close relationships they've developed with their patrons. Libraries are no longer seen as the place to turn for information, and librarians are trying to face fundamental changes with superficial fixes.

Visual resource curators and librarians have many things in common, including collection development, cataloging, and reference work. The fact that these professionals are questioning the role of librarians as a collaborative partners should be something that the library community takes very seriously.

What directions should the future take? The panelists and audience had many constructive thoughts. VR curators see collaborative initiatives across campus departments as key to future development. The library needs to be one participant in these discussions, but can't expect to lead everyone. Another panelist suggested that digital library collection with well-developed metadata will dramatically change the role of the library. Although the content needs to be relevant to patrons, the use of the metadata will be how we disseminate this information. Another obvious change is that librarians need to find and understand our patrons. We have to educate them about the services we offer and not expect them to find us when we're needed.

The final consensus of the discussion seemed to be that collaborative models are the future, and expertise from many different fields is necessary. If libraries want to remain relevant in the digital future, we need to be willing to participate in these discussions and not try to do everything by ourselves.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Four things

I just recently saw that Jenn at Inquiring Librarian tagged me for four things. Since I'm busy procrastinating my deadlines today, I thought I'd answer.

4 jobs I've had:
Metadata and Digital Initiatives Librarian, Indiana State University Library
Metadata technician, Imaging Services Department, Harvard College Library
Preservation Assistant, Preservation and Imaging Services Department, Harvard College Library
Interlibrary Loan Assistant, Peabody Conservatory Music Library

4 places I've lived:
Danville, Illinois
Boston, Massachusetts
Baltimore, Maryland
Albuquerque, New Mexico

4 TV shows:
Sex and the City

4 recent novels:
Chronicles of Narnia
Short Stories of Nabokov
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
Love in the Time of Cholera

4 Places I've been on vacation:
Yorkshire Dales, England
Lucerne, Switzerland
Mt. Desert Island, Maine
Aspen, Colorado

4 favorite foods:
Hatch (New Mexico) green chile
Fresh fruit
Bubble tea
Crying Tiger (from my favorite Thai restaurant in Boston)

4 websites I visit daily:
Google news
Wabash Valley Visions & Voices
BBC News

4 places I'd rather be:
With my husband
On vacation
New Mexico
Aspen, Colorado

4 Bloggers I'm tagging
The only blogger I'd tag is Jenn, but tagged me so I guess I'll leave this blank. Anyone else should feel free to answer.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

New links

While exploring a little corner of the internet this week I found some new places to visit:
digitizationblog: News on digitization in libraries and allied institutions
Digitize everything: helping dig the grave of all things analog
Library weblogs

I also found a journal that I hadn't known about before:
Libraries & the Cultural Record, "exploring the history of the institutions, professions, and disciplines that are finding common ground in their stewardship of the cultural record."