Google, the librarian

I was interviewed by Norman Oder of Library Journal for What Would Google Do? Snippets:

Libraries already act like Google in many ways. Or I should say instead, Google acts like libraries. It is the mission of both to organize the world’s information, to make it openly accessible, to find and present the most authoritative (by many definitions) sources, to instill an ethic of information use in the public, to act as a platform for communities of information, to encourage creation. . . .

How can libraries collect the wisdom of the crowd that is their communities (e.g., creating collaborative town wikis and maps made by the community)? Librarians and their expert patrons could curate the web and create topic pages that would rise in Google search as valuable resources for the world (if your library is in Florida, it could maintain the best collections of sources for information on manatees or sunburns). What I’d really like to do is brainstorm this question with your readers on my blog: How could they be Googlier?

I think librarians will have a key role in what I believe will be a distributed future of education… in a limitless web of teachers and students no longer bound by a classroom or campus or by geography. Librarians, like Google and like learners, are thinking past their libraries.

On Google Book Search and the settlement with publishers and authors (still controversial with some librarians):

There’s no reason publishers couldn’t have created their own consortium to do everything Google will do: scan books, make them searchable, manage purchases and payments, and even sell ads on book content. Similarly, libraries could have scanned works in the public domain on their own. That Google puts on conditions–some of which are not Google’s but are apparently rights holders’– should not be shocking. Just as ad-supported media conceded much of the ad market to Google, so did publishers and libraries allow Google to step into a void they left.

I think that Google Book Search and the settlement around it are good for books and authors because the service will enable many more readers to discover many more books. Authors and publishers might end up with another revenue stream. And books can live on past the remainder table. Rather than fighting the tide and Google, publishers should have tried to see how to offer and capture these benefits themselves. Now they’re wise to work with Google.

  • In other ways, too libraries and Google are much alike – or certainly in the US. Since the Patriot Act, both public libraries and Google have been invading surfer’s privacy as a matter of course.

    There are some very important ways in which Google doesn’t act like public libraries however – Google’s aim is to make the finding of information profitable, rather than being founded on the notion of a public good.

    Moving away from Google, some semantic engines are already tapping into the knowledge of librarians:

    DMOZ, the Open Directory Project, is a great example of how the library approach can bring (advertising free) sanity to the web.

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