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Call A Librarian…

By - February 05, 2004

Gary points to this article, which I missed this morning…the NYT does a nice piece on why humans in fact can do stuff computers can’t…

“Maybe they could have found the answer faster on Google, but who knows if it would be right?” Ms. Tuckerman (a librarian) said. “It’s not that I don’t like Google, but we’re the information experts.”

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6 thoughts on “Call A Librarian…

  1. Steve Krause says:

    Let’s review the facts here: The librarian is asked the name of the political party Ross Perot founded. It takes her 10 minutes to get the answer, which finally comes from a reference book.

    What happens if one enters into Google “Ross Perot party” (without the quotes)? The first results page has “Reform Party” in either the title or the excerpted text of 8 out of 10 results.

    But what if that confluence of results is not enough to satisfy the skeptic’s “Who knows if it would be right?” issue. Let’s remember that “it” is ultimately not Google; it’s the sources Google points to. And for this search, a quick scan indicates the sources include CNN, USA Today, and the Reform Party USA 2004 Official Website.

    At this stage, I’d think most “information experts” would be satisfied that “Reform Party” is indeed a reliable answer. For an experienced Google user, the query and scan of results would have been a 10-second exercise–less than 2% of the time taken by the librarian’s method.

    The point: It’s not about people vs. computers. It’s about how people use the resources available to them. While there are plenty of situations where Google won’t get the answer, the “Reform Party” example is one where the reference librarian’s biases wasted everybody a lot of time.

  2. I have to agree. Wihtout reservation, good point.

  3. Bunny Watson says:

    But what if the task were to calculate the number of acres of American forest lost each year to the spruce bud worm?

  4. Otis says:

    Why does it have to be an exclusive relationship?
    Sometimes it’s a search engine, sometimes it’s a librarian, and sometimes it’s a librarian using a search engine.

  5. John Gray says:

    I think Steve makes an excellent point. I’m a regular at the local public library, but I’m still more inclined to do my research with Google (or some other search engine). I do think libraries have the advantage; I just don’t think they understand how to leverage their capabilities.

  6. Robert Shaw says:

    I received my MLS in the late nineties. Next week I am going for a refresher course in reference work. All participants were asked to read an article from Reference & User Services Quarterly as preparation for the class.This article is about how GOOGLE HAS CHANGED THE WHOLE COMPLEXION OF LIBRARIANSHIP.