Google’s news your staff needs to know

Many library staff members who work directly with the public continue to have less than timely understanding of how the World Wide Web is used and can be used, how search engines function, and the roles of software and browser settings in their own and their library computer users’ searching and search results. With those realities in mind, it’s important to make sure that your library staff understands the meaning and import of the announcement made by Google on Saturday.

The subject of child pornography is certainly a difficult one to discuss in a constructive manner. However, a discussion of it is pertinent to the provision of library services that are relevant in terms of social and political realities (on an international as well as a local scale), the functionalities of internet browsing and image searching, and the management of both in library user behavior and staff roles related to user behavior.

Certainly the announcement from Google provides a platform for such discussions with staff. The possibilities for outcomes well beyond staff member understanding of the implications of the announcement on their work is enormous.

To aid these discussions, please refer to the Flipboard magazine linked here for a collection of online resources addressing definitions, basic browser setting information and news discussions of Google’s announcement. [Note: some relevant resources contained in this resource guide are British and are not intended to be used as legal information, but rather because they outline an illuminating array of considerations, staff knowledge and awareness needs, and international concerns that may be an aspect of a local situation.]

This Is What Empowerment Looks Like

Have you found and explored the Google Search Education website? I was lucky enough to have reference maven Carole Leita remind me today that not only is it still out there, but it’s been beefed up to include lesson plans (shared under the Creative Commons licensing that allows reuse and local editing as long as there is correct attribution).

The plans  and other help pages at this site, that carries the tag line “Search Education Evangelism,” include those targeting basic users, pros, and Google users by specific country (You have to be approved to access the documents designed for other countries; not all of these are Web enabled). The basic lesson plans are scaffolded from beginner through advanced, with the most basic lesson offering both directions for an instructor and a slide set to use when working through the differences among “Internet,” “Web,” “browser,” “search engine,” etc., terms that many of your library’s computer users may never have paused to understand clearly enough to effect good searches (or clear reference questions).

So, Google may be impinging on privacy, but at the same time, let’s not look this empowerment gift horse in the mouth. Start with your staff and help them to bring more clarity and understanding to advance searching (that is, library added value searching!) in response to users. But also share with your users directly.

Google’s willing to empower searchers to get to the heart of their information needs (Yes, the cynic notes that the closer Google users get to their “real” needs, the better targeted marketing the search engine can sell), and certainly we librarians should be working toward that goal as well. Not only can we reduce frustration and ignorance, but we can continue to evolve as the knowledge-exploiting species we are if we can all better clarify “real” answers.

PS My request to be vetted to look directly at the Latin American Spanish documents was answered–by a real person!–in under seven minutes while I worked on this post. I received an apology stating that the set in question is being updated and edited but that the person doing that work is currently on vacation. The human face of Google (and sounds like some library messages I hear, too)!

Google’s New Foray

As one librarian/information specialist/trainer to another, I’m curious to hear what and how you are thinking about the breaking news from Google on the “refreshment” of search responses.  If you’re a public library administrator, you’ve been working with staff to develop their understanding of how to be effective and efficient professional researchers.   If you’re a school librarian, or working in a public library where homework questions from students of any age account for at least some of your staff’s interactions with in-person customers, you’ve been teaching resource evaluation for a long time.  With the rubber about to meet a newly repaved highway, here are some guiding questions to consider:

  • Why should you be invested in thinking about this now, instead of waiting until Google shows us the results  of what they have announced?
  • Who needs first level priority in undertaking a deeper examination of how this change may impact collections, services, and staff training needs?
  • Where will you concentrate your library’s efforts to keep both users and staff onboard with the library’s role in information retrieval and dispersal with this changing landscape?
  • How will you break down the concept of the semantic web so that inexperienced researchers can be clear about its role to Google search results and thus better understand what the results show and don’t show?
  • Which communities within your broad community will need increased support, lest they be left even further removed from access to “free” information?
  • When will you plan to work with other information gatekeepers, such as teachers creating assignments, so that you and they can reach a common understanding of meaningful exploitation of available information resources and conduits?

With some staff, change isn’t viewed as neutral, so you’ll need to coordinate expectations (both optimistic and pessimistic).  The best way to do that, of course, is to keep yourself informed, flexible, and willing to share the truth that change is a fact of life, and that our roles in the information world include the ability to recognize when a change on the horizon must be met with a change in our habits.

So, now from your point of view, how’s this change appearing to you?

Google versus Bing: taste testing search engines

I have been pondering & exploring for a while now the differences between Bing and Google. I’m so used to using Google that it’s hard to stop down and really give Bing a shot. But now that Bing is officially going to power Yahoo! and is the number two most used search engine (sorry, decision engine) it behooves us all to get familiar with its ins and outs.

I found this side-by-side comparison site that helps to illustrate the similarities, strengths and weaknesses of each: Another useful site for doing some comparison searching: BlindSearch. This one lets you enter a search term or phrase then returns results from Google, Bing and Yahoo then lets you vote on which results seem most relevant. You’ll only find out which results are which search engine AFTER you vote!

We’ve also updated our Best Search Tools and Search Tools Chart pages to include Bing. Enjoy!