Challenging Your Dark Side: Teaching Google Book Search and Google Scholar
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:
The Google Books Library Project began in December 2004 as a
partnership between Google, Inc. and five libraries—
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:
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?
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