Old Search Engine, the Library, Tries to Fit Into a Google World
By KATIE HAFNER
New York Times
"For the last few years, librarians have increasingly seen people use online search sites not to supplement research libraries but to replace them. Yet only recently have librarians stopped lamenting the trend and started working to close the gap between traditional scholarly research and the incomplete, often random results of a Google search."
"Ms. Wittenberg's group recently finished a three-year study of research habits, including surveys of 1,233 students across the country, that concluded that electronic resources have become the main tool for information gathering, particularly among undergraduates."
Undergraduates like Ms. Maxianova and her classmates are not the only ones conducting research from their computers. Faculty members also do it.
"One of the rarest things to find is a member of the faculty in the library stacks," said Paul Duguid, an information researcher who will teach a class this fall at the University of California, Berkeley on judging the authenticity of information found on the Web.
In the Columbia survey, 90 percent of the faculty members who responded said they used electronic resources in their research several times a week or more. Nearly all said it was a valuable resource.
While the accuracy of online information is notoriously uneven, the ubiquity of the Web means that a trip to the stacks is no longer the way most academic research begins.
A few research librarians say Google could eventually take on more of the role of a universal library.
"If you could use Google to just look across digital libraries, into any digital library collection, now that would be cool," said Daniel Greenstein, university librarian of the California Digital Library, the digital branch of the University of California library system.
The biggest problem is that search engines like Google skim only the thinnest layers of information that has been digitized. Most have no access to the so-called deep Web, where information is contained in isolated databases like online library catalogs.
Search engines seek so-called static Web pages, which generally do not have search functions of their own. Information on the deep Web, on the other hand, comes to the surface only as the result of a database query from within a particular site.
Use Google, for instance, to research Upton Sinclair's 1934 campaign for governor of California, and you will miss an entire collection of pamphlets accessible only from the University of California at Los Angeles's archive of digitized campaign literature.