Monday, January 23, 2006

The library versus Googling

Over the weekend I received my copy of Library Resources & Technical Services. The first article, “The Future of Cataloging” by Deanna B. Marcum, caught my eye because it simultaneously deals with both aspect of my job: digital content and descriptive cataloging. There’s a lot to digest in this article, and right now I just want to comment on the first section, “using the library versus Googling.”

In this section, Marcum discusses the fact that students prefer searching Google to searching the library homepage/OPAC. Google gives students information with a simple click, while the library webpage requires navigation through many layers to find the needed information. According to a study, students even prefer the clutter of irrelevant and non-authoritative sites to the library webpage, and are able to approach this clutter “in an enthusiastic and proactive manner.” I think this last statement is underestimated in the library community. Librarians often don’t give students credit for being able to weed through web results. As a recent student (and still socially connected with students), I know that many are capable of finding the correct information on the web using Google. As the generation that grew up with the internet begins to enter college, we should see better developed searching skills.

My other reaction to this section of the article deals with the entire underlying assumption of the “library versus Google.” Why? Google and other search engines are tools that index words. They do not provide content (yet). The library provides content and access points (words). Why is it one versus the other? It sounds like they should be working together. Why are our search engines so much more complicated? A student should be able to enter their search words in the front page of the library site and be directed to resources that may be useful, whether they are databases, books, or electronic resources. Google is learning to provide content by digitizing books. Maybe libraries should learn from Google and create search engines that are easier to use, and trusting that the students will be able to weed out irrelevant results themselves.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Happy new year

I’ve been out of touch with my blog for a while! I spent the holidays travelling, and then moved into another apartment during the first week of the year. Life is finally getting back to normal now, thanks to the three day weekend.

One of the challenges of this job is keeping up with all of the information available, doing my job, and still finding time to have a life outside of work. I’m still struggling to find the balance. Blogs, listservs, professional journals, etc. and wonderful resources, but the amount of information can be overwhelming. I really admire the people that are able to do find a balance between work and life and still be well informed.

Work projects in the past month have including creating new portal pages to our database and digitizing audio. I had a nice surprise just before I left for the holidays when I found out that the Visual Resources Association awarded me a travel grant to attend the annual conference in Baltimore. I’ve found this group to be very supportive, and I’m excited to attend the annual conference and meet more members.

A hot topics I’ve noticed recently is oral history interviews. Right now I’m working on digitizing some old cassette tapes with oral history interviews and will eventually add them to the site. However, when I think about our digital content management systems, it seems like most of them have been designed to manage visual content rather than audio/visual content. Is it appropriate to add audio/visual content to these systems, or would it be better to keep them in a systems designed specifically for searching and displaying audio/visual material?