Challenging Your Dark Side: Teaching Google Book Search and Google Scholar

Dale Vidmar

Instruction and Information Literacy Coordinator


When Google first introduced Google Scholar, then shortly after announced the Google Books Library Project and entered into an agreement to digitize books, many librarians and academic scholars believed they had sited the Death Star. Scholar and Book Search had all the making of leading individuals further astray on the Internet and further away from the resources in libraries. Where Scholar evoked questions of adequacy, Book Search erupted into legal challenges. Libraries and librarians watched as institutions and individuals joined the “dark side.” Many felt and still feel that this is just the beginning of making information available to everyone, but only for a price. As both projects continue their assault on the universe, how can librarians and faculty take advantage of this seeming adversary?


Google Scholar has been publicized as the next great thing for academic research on the Web. Scholar went public in November 2004. But as intriguing and controversial as Book Search is, Scholar pales in comparison to scholarly databases found in a larger public library let alone an academic library. Where Book Search does what the best of library catalogs do not do—search inside the content of books—Scholar is a disappointing substitute for databases such those found in libraries. But there is the rub. A library may not be available to an individual. In more remote areas, school and public libraries may not provide access to expensive full-text databases and indexes. Scholar can provide some assistance and perhaps even limited, yet useful results. But like any other search tool or database, it is important to know the specific features for searching, how they work, and the results they produce.


Features of Scholar:

  • Cited by – other entries that have cited a document.
  • Library links – “Find it @” provides a link to library resources for accessing an online copy when you are at the institution. Also, searches WorldCat or a specific library when set in preferences.
  • Preferences – enables saving preferences for:
    • Library links -- such as your home institution (Southern Oregon University).
    • Bibliographic manager – allows the export of citations to sources such as RefWorks, EndNote, etc.
    • Language.
    • Number of displayed links.
  • Related articles – links to related articles, but the reason they are related is not always clear.
  • Advanced Search – the advance search produces better results.
    • Search terms in title.
    • Date.
    • Publication.


The Google Books Library Project began in December 2004 as a partnership between Google, Inc. and five libraries—University of Michigan, Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford Universities, and New York Public Library. As of  February 7, 2006, the partnership has grown to include 12 libraries with the addition of University of California, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, University of Wisconsin, University of Virginia, University of Texas at Austin, and Princeton. What began as the Google Book Library Project and Google Print has evolved into Google Book Search. In addition to these libraries, Google’s Partner Program includes books from numerous publishers. Google’s goal is "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."


Many details about Book Search have not been published by Google--such as how many books are available, guidelines for selection, and the algorithm by which books are searched. What is known is that a search in Book Search will retrieve a variety of content from the full text to excerpts including table of contents, indexes, title page, and limited selections in which the search terms are used in context based on whether the content is in the public domain or depending on the arrangement with publishers. The available content is not much different than what is available on other resources such as Amazon’s Search Inside.


Book Search offers the possibility of searching inside books, retrieving a variety of content from the full text to excerpts including table of contents, indexes, title page, and limited selections in which the search terms are used in context based on whether the content is in the public domain or depending on the arrangement with publishers. What Google Book Search makes possible is the exploration of what is between the covers of a book—information not contained in the catalog records.


Features of Google Book Search:

  • About this Book – Snippet view provides information about the book.
    • Preview – sample pages
    • Title page
    • Table of contents.
    • Index.
    • Related books - references from other books and scholarly works from Scholar.
    • Key terms
  • Find it in a library link – only books in the public domain are linked to libraries.
  • Advanced Search – provides options to search for better access to books.
    • Full view books.
    • Search library catalogs.
  • Find in a Library or Library catalog search – searches libraries near a zip code.
  • Keyword searching of complex phrases – Book Search searches more of a book than a typical catalog making it possible to search a thesis sentence or a list of keywords that would often produce no results in a typical library catalogs.


So is this really the beginning of the end of libraries, the demise of books, the culminating defeat of the librarian profession? or will Google join the list of resources that librarians use in their repertoire to provide individuals with the what they need when they need it? Although there are still legal issues to be resolved, the answer may be more of a choice by those in the librarian profession to work with these options as part of an overall search strategy, rather than against it. Perhaps the most compelling reason to incorporate Book Search and Scholar into our information literacy classes and stated proficiencies is because students and other individuals are going to find out about it anyway. Who better to introduce them to the benefits of searching Google Book Search to find out more about what is inside a book than a librarian?



Baksik, C. (2006). “Fair use or exploitation? The Google book search controversy.” Portal:

Libraries and the Academy. 6 (4), 399-415.

Band, J. (2006). The google library project both sides of the story. Information Outlook, 10(6), 35-54.

Golderman, G., & Connolly, B. (2007). Who cited this? Library Journal, 132, 18-26.

Google Press Center. (2006). Google checks out library books. Retrieved 12/14, 2006, from  

Henshaw, R. (December 2006). Google book search: access at what price? Campus Technology, 10-10.

Jasco, P. (2005). “Savvy searching: Google scholar: the pros and cons.” Online

Information Review, 208-214. Retrieved December 2, 2006, from

Jeanneney, J. N. (2007). Google and the myth of universal knowledge : A view from europe [Quand Google défie l'Europe: Plaidoyer pour un sursaut] (T. L. Fagan Trans.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Mullen, L. B., & Hartman, K. A. (2006). Google scholar and the library web site: The early response by ARL libraries. College & Research Libraries, 67(2), 106-122.

Proskine, E. A. (2006). Google's technicolor dreamcoat: A copyright analysis of the google book search library project. Berkeley Technology Law Journal, 21(1), 213-239.

Toobin, J. (2007). Google’s moon shot: the quest for the universal library. New Yorker. 82(48), 30-35.