Monday, June 4, 2007

You Don't Scare Me, Google!!!

So, I was reading this excellent post, Cult of the Pundit, on the excellent blog, Bokardo, and I got to thinking about something that annoys me greatly, namely, people asking me if I'm scared I will lose my job to Google, implying (or outright stating, often with a malicious sneer) that internet search engines, or even the internet itself, has rendered my profession obsolete. I mean, as a librarian (if you are a librarian) I'm sure you get that one a lot (along with the ever-so-witty "do you know the Dewey Decimal System?")

Aaaaaanyway, that post made me think about the web, and how it allows pretty much everybody who has access to it (along with proper equipment and bandwidth) to try their hand at pretty much anything (ok, I'm over-simplifying, I know, there probably aren't a lot of easily accessible tools and programs for molecular biology... But you get the point.) But for many mainstream professions, it's true... Anyone with a blog can be a reporter... And anyone with iMovie can be a producer. And I seem to remember from grad school that you can download older versions of ProTools for free, so why not try your hand at music?

Does this mean that professional reporters, producers and musicians are now obsolete? Should we trash those professions altogether? I doubt anyone is suggesting that, so why is it that they are suggesting that librarians are no longer necessary just because anyone can perform an internet search? Doing something as a hobby or on a small scale versus doing it as a profession are two very different things, marked by notably different skill levels. No one is saying that Google can't help you find information, we are just saying that librarians are better at it. 90% of the time Google will find you the information you want, and that's fine, but there are times when you need to consult an expert.

Now please don't get me wrong, I am not against Google, or blogging, or personal podcasting or whatever, mainly because I <3 web 2.0 in all its glory, and am not paranoid about it stealing my thunder (or my job...) I think it's great that so many people can have a voice where once things were much more homogenized. And I also think it's a great method for discovering talent. Really good bloggers don't stay anonymous for long, they become well-known and well-read, and are often considered professional "reporters" in their fields. Just because you start small on the internet does not mean you are forever an amateur... I just don't see why web 2.0 must hail the death of the librarian. Vive la librarian!!!

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I seriously doubt the importance of librarians after the invention of search engines.I mean,if I want to search for a particular topic in detail,how is the librarian going to search for it better than me myself?

Search engines are better in the following terms:--

1)I know what I am looking for.So google search is better as compared to asking a librarian.I can browse through a lot many google pages in just a few minutes as compared to spending a lot of time trying to explain my situation to the librarian.

2)If the librarian doesn't have knowledge about the subject I am looking for,e.g. core engineering subjects,then its difficult for him/her to search it better than me.


Search engines lose out in the following manner:--

1)Most of the materials or knowledge exists in the form of paper work like books,thesis etc.It would take years for all that knowledge to become digital.So most of the times library is my only option because I can't find relevant material on web.

chirag.gardharia@gmail.com

val said...

Chirag, didn't you just make my point for me? As you say, Google does not find everything there is out there on a topic, especially high-value research. That type of information is often contained in expensive commercial databases that your average person cannot afford. Those databases are also often more difficult to search, because of the complexity of their contents, and the existence of subject-specific classifications and terminology. Librarians are trained on these databases, and often trained to train others on them.

Librarians don't want to do your searching for you, and trust me, sometimes i want desperately to tell someone to 'just Google it' when they ask me a simple question, but I spend a lot of time keeping on top of the world of information- what's out there and where- and we really just want to help point people in the right direction.

And hey, maybe in the world of the semantic web, when Google has completed their mission of obtaining all your information, the computer will understand your searching needs and act as the intermediary, refining your query and sending it out to all the best resources and returning you with exactly what you were looking for in 3.2 seconds (all full-text of course, downloaded directly to your gadget of choice). Ok, screw maybe, most likely that is the direction we're going... But whatevs, I'll be retired by then.

neo said...

Valerie,
Please don't take me as against the library system.I raised those points just for discussion.

For letters or blogs I prefer the web.

But I mainly prefer books due to the following reasons:---

1)Good for eyes----with americans being so much of health freaks,this should score as a good point.

2)Mobility----while reading an e-book its difficult to perform those different yogic postures a person would otherwise perform while reading a paper-bound copy....lol.

3)I don't know how(I think that it must be how nature made us) but it's easier to skip pages or take a rapid look on a paper-bound copy as compared to an e-book.

4)And last but not the least,the factor by which almost all the engineers are governed......COST.....books are plain cheaper.For web access,you need a computer and high speed internet.I think this should not be a problem here in USA.....but few years back,possessing a computer and internet in my country was considered a luxury.

neo said...

One more thing....

Google exposes the researcher to universal databases.(database throughout the whole world).

Library exposes the researcher just to local databases(school,state,country etc. database).

I dont know if today's library system databases are universal.Seriously,you can tell me more about that.

Post a Comment