Library 2.0, or why I’m not running off to join the cult just yet

26 February 2008

I’ve been particularly interested in reading everyone’s posts on Library 2.0. Like any radical movement, Library 2.0 has its sceptics and its fanatics. There is a very lively Ning community, a large bibliography on the subject by librarians who can’t get enough of it, and there’s absolutely no chance you’ll attend a library conference this year without having to sit through at least one cringeworthy session on Library 2.0 and the mission to make libraries cool.

Yet the question remains: how radical is Library 2.0 really?

Let’s start with definitions. A quick review of the literature suggests that the boundaries are very broad, and very poorly defined.

Back in December 2005, Sarah Houghton-Jan had this cheerful opinion:

‘Library 2.0 simply means making your library’s space (virtual and physical) more interactive, collaborative, and driven by community needs …  The basic drive is to get people back into the library by making the library relevant to what they want and need in their daily lives … to make the library a destination and not an afterthought.’

But by January 2006, she was starting to sound a bit jaded:

‘Perhaps Library 2.0 is just one of many perpetual regularly scheduled library-world wake up calls to re-focus on the users and what they want.’

The same year, Meredith Farkas declared herself a 2.0 sceptic:

‘Library 2.0 and Web 2.0 don’t exist. Web 2.0 is hype. Library 2.0 is just a bunch of very good ideas that have been squished into a box with a trendy label slapped on it.’

This remark put her at loggerheads with the fanatics, or ‘twopointopians‘, as the Annoyed Librarian pointedly describes them. There is a tendency for discussions on Library 2.0 to become very heated; whether or not ‘twopointopians’ are the ‘earnest, humorless librarians’ the Annoyed Librarian suggests, they nevertheless condemn anyone who doesn’t agree with their perspective as out of touch, afraid of change, and worse still — professionally negligent.

I don’t consider this a valid description of Meredith Farkas, who has (quite literally) written the book on social software in libraries. She is hardly averse to change, or to the role that technology might play in the libraries of the future. She recognises that many libraries have fallen behind:

‘There are plenty of libraries that never do surveys and that never ask their patrons what they think or if they’re happy. Some people have been teaching the same things in their information literacy classes for years, in spite of the fact that students aren’t using the same tools to do their research anymore.’

Michael Stephens’ popular library blog Tame the Web sits squarely at the other end of the spectrum — in the pro-Library 2.0 camp. Stephens looks at how several pro-Library 2.0 writers define the concept, and compares their assumptions with Wikipedia’s definition of Library 2.0. From the snapshot of the Wikipedia entry Stephens provides, we could just as easily be reading about Web 2.0, since the definitions are almost identical:

  • Beta is forever
  • A disruptive idea
  • Harness the long tail

What Meredith Farkas and other sceptics recognise, but the Library 2.0 champions don’t see, is that one of the biggest stumbling blocks for Library 2.0 is just that — the fuzzy term. An increasing number of library bloggers are beginning to repudiate the title ‘Library 2.0’ because they feel it has been hijacked, or ‘co-opted‘, by overzealous librarians and vendors:

‘the term Library 2.0 has been co-opted by a growing group of libraries, librarians, and particularly vendors to push an agenda of “change” that deflects attention from some very real issues and concerns without really changing anything … We’re blindly casting about for a panacea and it’s making us look like fools.’ (blyberg.net)

I would argue that the tag ‘2.0’ has always been meaningless rhetoric, no matter to which subject it is applied. Tim Berners-Lee, the originator of the Web, loathes the term Web 2.0, describing it as ‘a piece of jargon‘ so meaningless that ‘nobody even knows what it means‘. He argues that if Web 2.0 means user-generated content like blogs and wikis, then it still means ‘people to people‘, which is ‘what the Web was supposed to be all along‘.

People are sick of 2.0. Wikipedia earmarked the article on Library 2.0 for deletion in late 2006, claiming it was a neologism without substance. The entry was only saved by aggressive lobbying on the part of heavyweights like Jessamyn West, David Lee King, Karen G. Schneider, Bill Drew, Walt Crawford and the term’s originator, Michael Casey.

When we’re discussing a push towards involving users in decisions about the future of their own libraries, applying version numbers to successive waves of theory is patently ridiculous. It places an uneven focus on technology, which already sits on a pedestal in the eyes of twopointopians. Novelties such as gaming and social networking software can’t solve the crisis in the relationship between library and user. While we can’t hope to provide better services to our users without better technology, it is only the means to the end, and not the end itself.

Amanda at Data Obsessed believes that:

‘the important part of it [Library 2.0] is not the shiny technologies but the intention behind their implementation … those intentions are classic ones — perhaps those provided by Ranganathan.’

If you’re a librarian, it’s likely you’ve heard of Ranganathan, the early 20th century Indian librarian who wrote the seminal text Five laws of library science.

His laws are simple:

  1. Books are for use (so every library user should be able to access them)
  2. Every reader his or her book (every library should cater to a wide range of books for a wide range of users)
  3. Every book its reader (even the most unusual book in the collection will find a reader)
  4. Save the time of the reader (make searching for a book as quick and painless a process as possible)
  5. The library is a growing organism (if the library doesn’t grow and change, it will fail to meet its users’ needs)

Can we apply these rules to our libraries? Indeed, does Library 2.0 apply these rules to our libraries?

Back in 2004, Alireza Noruzi (correctly) wondered if Ranganathan’s laws could be related to the Web:

  1. Web resources are for use
  2. Every user his or her web resource
  3. Every web resource its user
  4. Save the time of the user
  5. The Web is a growing organism

Yes, technology can help us to achieve all five of Ranganathan’s goals. We can house larger quantities of digital material than we ever could with print, which allows us to cater to more users — those who can’t come into the library in person, those with a disability and those who speak languages other than English. We can use RSS feeds and social bookmarking sites to provide desirable content to our users, allowing them to pick and choose what suits them. If they desire it, we can even visit them in the online spaces they choose to inhabit. Best of all, we can use blogs to open up a two-way dialogue with our users, and to build communities of practice with others in the profession.

But there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered. What else do we need, aside from technology, to make this happen? Is Library 2.0 really a new release, or just a bug fix? What, if any, are the new features packaged in Library 2.0? And indeed, is the term ‘Library 2.0′ the only problem? If we just find a new name to describe the movement, will we be able to get on with combating the growing crisis in libraries?

Perhaps not. Meredith Farkas, who among other professions is a trained therapist, maintains that catch-all terms are misleading. Lumping everything that’s wrong with libraries under the heading Library 1.0 disguises the roots of the problem, and therefore prevents us from finding a cure. ‘Why do people like to squish things into these neat little boxes as if the world was meant to be that way?‘ she rues. ‘Web 2.0. Library 2.0. I don’t like labels and I don’t like boxes.’

Farkas argues that by continuing to squabble over the scope of Library 2.0, we are ‘focusing on the wrong things.’ She thinks we should ‘be more concrete‘ in the way we describe change to libraries, librarians and users. She maintains that the concept of Library 2.0 ‘seems a lot more pie-in-the-sky than teaching a group of librarians what a blog is, why it’s a good thing for libraries, and how they can start one.’

Of course, Farkas is right — not just that we should do away with the label of Library 2.0, but that we are wasting time thinking about it. The only reason we exist — the only reason we have ever existed — is to fulfil the information needs of our users. These needs might be explicit or implied, immediate or long-term, and the users we serve may be known to us or anonymous, but ultimately they are the only motivation for our existence. And if we’re not concentrating on serving them, whatever excuse we give, we’re failing.
A selection of perspectives on Library 2.0:


Will del.icio.us be Delicious in the years of maturity?

25 February 2008

I’ve talked about why it pays staff who move around a lot to make as much content as possible available online. I’ve recommended shifting frequently-used documents to email, or a staff wiki or intranet. But what about all those wonderful webpages we bookmark each day and squirrel away in our browsers’ bookmarks folder? How can we access these from elsewhere?

The long and short of it is that we can’t. But we can submit them to an online service accessible with an internet connection from anywhere in the world.

There are several web-based bookmarking services (also known as ‘social bookmarking‘ sites) that allow me to upload my favourite pages to a website for my own use or to share with others. The beauty of this is that I can then take my bookmarks with me wherever I go — home, work or anywhere else with an internet connection — the perfect solution to the problem of finding a great site for research and being in the wrong place to bookmark it at the time.

I’ve never really gelled with del.icio.us, the most popular of these services. I’m not sure why; the concept itself is brilliant. I think maybe it’s something to do with never remembering where to put those confusing dots. Thankfully they’ll be removed in version 2.0.

(‘Coffee cream bunny rabbit bookmark’, from Amigurumi’s Flickr photos and reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence)

I joined del.icio.us when I first started at Swinburne. Back in those days I was using Internet Explorer, and I found the process of adding tags pretty convoluted. Like most users, I am only going to use new software if it doesn’t make my existing workflows more complicated. So not surprisingly, I quickly gave up on del.icio.us.

I also tried Jumptags, one of its newer rivals (not owned by Yahoo). While it looked pretty, I was frustrated that it logged me out of the service every time I left the site (even if I visited the site more than once during a single browser session). I was also concerned about test sites I wanted to bookmark for easy access but not share publicly; I wasn’t sure how Jumptags would manage these. Finally, like del.icio.us for Internet Explorer, as there was no easy way to add a page to Jumptags without having to stop work and open a new browser tab, I continued to use Ctrl + D to save a link, then export it to Jumptags later. While synchronising my browser-based bookmarks and my Jumptags bookmarks was a relatively easy process, I needed to remember to synchronise every afternoon. Not much chance of that. Again, I gave up.

What about other services? CiteULike and Connotea are popular among researchers, but as they’re designed primarily to help academics share scholarly works, images and other resources with their colleagues for export to bibliographic software, they have a completely different agenda and target audience from del.icio.us. Others like Faves, Reddit, StumbleUpon, and the truly awful Digg, return to the idea of a ‘social’ service by allowing users to ‘rate’ the bookmarks added by other users. None of them appears to completely satisfy my needs.

I acknowledge that my current system isn’t working. Even with my bookmarks neatly filed in folders, it’s hard to find anything and even harder to deduplicate. So now that I’m a Firefox devotee (and running out of time for the 23 Things program), I thought I’d give del.icio.us another shot. There’s only one hitch; I’m using Firefox 3 Beta 3 at the moment, and the del.icio.us toolbar isn’t compatible with this version yet. Damn.

I think you can probably learn a lot about me from my bookmarks. Feel free to let me know what conclusions you draw in the comments!

More links:

Blogger’s note: Amazingly, the title of this blog post relates to physics:
‘I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity.’ – Albert Einstein


How a single number makes my life easier

21 February 2008

While I enjoyed using the features available to me through iGoogle, they are more useful to me in a personal than a professional context.

One of the ways I handle quick and easy access to my most frequently used sites and services at work is through a Firefox extension called Speed Dial. It allows me to assign a keyboard shortcut to websites of my choice for faster access. Speed Dial uses this combination of keys as shorthand for the website’s URL, in a similar way to the speed dial on my phone, which conveniently stores my emergency contacts (the patient people I call when Melbourne’s public transport system breaks down) in keys 1 to 9.

I’ve put Speed Dial in charge of my homepage, so that in essence I have twelve homepages instead of one. When I open a new browser window or tab, Speed Dial displays thumbnail images of my chosen pages; I can click one of these to be swiftly directed to the site. Otherwise, I type a URL in the address bar as usual.

I use the following commands to navigate at work (this should give you some idea of how I spend my time):

Ctrl+1: Swinburne Research Bank
Ctrl+2: Swinburne Library staff wiki (authorised users only)
Ctrl+3: Google Scholar
Ctrl+4: Scopus
Ctrl+5: Index of Swinburne Library subscription journals
Ctrl+6: Ulrich’s Periodicals Directory
Ctrl+7: Swinburne Library
Ctrl+8: Google Reader
Ctrl+9: Swinburne 23 Things Blog
Ctrl+1+0: Libraries Australia
Ctrl+1+1: This blog
Ctrl+1+2: Test website (not publicly available)

Further links:


Build your house, then call me home(page)

21 February 2008

Our lives are increasingly mobile. For example, I wrote this post (and many of the previous ones) on the train. It’s not nearly as exciting as it sounds; I don’t have a laptop, a PDA or a web-enabled phone. I’m not even typing bestsellers with my thumbs like the famous Japanese cell phone authors.

No, I’ve gone truly retrograde. I’m writing my posts in pen on paper.

And I love it.

But what about those of us who want to use technology in more than one place? People without laptops, or people who travel?

This time last week I was in New Zealand, having a fantastic holiday and generally steering clear of the Web for the sake of rest, eyestrain, and my unfortunate tendency to read work email while I’m on vacation. But one thing I could have done from an airport kiosk or internet cafe was upload my holiday snaps to Flickr, Picasa, Facebook or any number of image-sharing websites. Why? Because all of these services are web-based, so they can follow (or haunt) me everywhere.

As I’m a really long way behind in the 23 Things schedule, some of my colleagues are beginning to post their final comments on the program. A particularly interesting point made by several bloggers was that many staff use more than one PC, sometimes even on multiple campuses. Naturally this makes the idea of a permanent desktop very appealing.

The 23 Things tasks reflect the trend towards ‘going mobile’. We’ve looked at Google Docs, for example, which offers a free hosting and editing service for office documents, and Flickr, a centralised space for storing images. But how can we take our desktops with us?

Firstly, we need to extract as much data as possible from internal network drives and make it available online. In the case of Swinburne Library staff, confidential information can be added to the staff wiki, since this is protected by password. The added advantage here is that a wiki is a collaborative tool; you might find your colleagues respond to your work with helpful comments and additions. Swinburne staff should also never underestimate the power of their email inboxes. Email is hardly the best content management service, especially given its relatively poor search abilities. However, since our email client can be accessed remotely, at least it’s always available.

Of course, this doesn’t solve everything. Swinburne 23 Things Task 16 encourages us to try iGoogle, a customised Web start page that can be accessed anywhere users have an internet connection.

iGoogle is certainly very visually versatile. Users can choose from a directory of over 150 themes, or even design their own using XML. I chose the ready-made City Scape theme, which changes gradually during the day to reflect the sun’s position in the sky. iGoogle, like many of the other Google products, makes use of ‘gadgets’ (called ‘widgets’ in Blogger) to add external content to pages. Like Facebook’s applications, many of these are created by weekend developers. As suggested when I activated the software, I added the Wikipedia, Gmail, Google Reader and ToDo gadgets.

Although it’s easy to search Wikipedia in Firefox (I just type ‘wp’ then the search query in the address bar), the ability to search Wikipedia from a portable desktop is useful when chasing PCs or using Internet Explorer. The option to preview my latest emails and feeds through iGoogle is also very handy. I don’t use my Gmail account very often (mainly just for Blogger comment alerts and Facebook ‘bacn‘) so I often forget to check for new emails. And with the number of unread feeds in my Google Reader rapidly approaching 1500 (again), it can be daunting even to take a peek at my aggregator. Much better just to be presented with a few new feeds each time I refresh my homepage.

Since I like the way iGoogle works, I may consider using it more regularly in the future, and I’ll definitely explore the gadget directory in more detail. However, for those who like the concept of a web-based desktop but aren’t inspired by Google’s offering, there are plenty of alternatives. Like all Web 2.0 products, their continued existence is subject to the fickleness of the web-using public — the safety of Google and any of its services lies in monstrous size and wealth. I am always hesitant to save my data to little-known Web 2.0 services without a backup, since they are frequently here today and gone tomorrow.

With that dire warning out of the way, here are some rival start pages I investigated:

PageOnce is designed for users with a number of web email and social networking accounts. It feeds all new email or friend update data into one start page, negating the need to remember a multitude of passwords. However, I think it’s important to bear privacy and security in mind; iGoogle only recycles data through the Gmail and Google Reader gadgets that is already available from my Google account. How much new information would I have to provide PageOnce for the same functionality?

Pageflakes is one of iGoogle’s most successful competitors. It has the ability to accomodate a wider audience than a personalised webpage like iGoogle. As an example, Dublin City Public Libraries use a customised Pageflakes page as the default homepage on all public access PCs. Unfortunately the page is very cluttered and ugly, and I worry about such heavy reliance on Web 2.0 tools. As Andrew Finegan notes, public libraries deserve to be ‘free but not cheap’.

As you can see from the comparison links below, many people favour Netvibes. Like Pageflakes, it was able to pinpoint my location (albeit Canberra, but close enough) and provide me with a demo page containing geographically-relevant modules like Herald Sun news and local weather. However like Pageflakes, the layout is messy and overcrowded; iGoogle’s sparse layout, in keeping with other Google products, definitely counts in its favour.

Despite iGoogle’s rapid rise in popularity in 2007, MyYahoo! is still the most popular start page by miles, but while it has the benefit of using the same login details as Flickr, it suffers from a strong UK bias. Let’s just say I wouldn’t use it.

Symbaloo is different from the other start pages I viewed because it uses a customisable array of symbols to represent frequently-used websites and services. Unlike iGoogle, which federates a number of services into a single space, Symbaloo acts as a launching pad for the Web. I think it’s one to watch, but it’s still in beta outside the United States.

Smplr has generated some interest in the online press, mostly because it’s unusual and much prettier than most of the start pages on the market. However, it requires users to learn a whole new language of codes to navigate the Web — something users are perfectly capable of doing without Simplr. Such a complicated process for a service that is meant to make users’ lives easier seems truly oxymoronic.

Further information:

Compare startpages:


    A grasshopper leaped from his leg, and other book memes

    20 February 2008

    While we’re on the topic of books, which I’m always more than happy to discuss, I’m going to stray a little from 23 Things with a book meme I found through Ruminations.

    A meme, for those who don’t know, is defined as:

    ‘Any unit of cultural information, such as a practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.’ (Wiktionary definition)

    This is a very fuzzy explanation, and could just as easily apply to pretty much any other word in the English language, but in a blogging context, we tend to think of ‘memes’ as concepts that are readily repeated, even echoed, across the blogging world. An example would be the day that library bloggers all over the world confessed to being the Annoyed Librarian.

    (‘I am the Annoyed Librarian’, from heidigoseek’s Flickr photos and reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence)

     

    Rules for this book meme:
    1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages)
    2. Open the book to page 123
    3. Find the fifth sentence
    4. Post the next three sentences
    5. Tag five people

    I don’t know about tagging anyone (I haven’t done that since the playground), but here is my response:

    ‘Duke University and Georgia State University took their Google Scholar guides a step further by integrating the Scholar search box directly into their sites. Duke includes some caveats up front — the by-now familiar disclaimers that Scholar searches a subset of scholarly literature, that the materials are not always scholarly, and that some material is only indexed in library databases. But then the Duke guide proceeds with detailed information on how to search Scholar, how to read Scholar’s results, how to use Duke’s citation linker from the Scholar interface, and how to use Open WorldCat results through Scholar.’

    (From Miller, W., & Pellen, R. M. (2006). Libraries and Google. Binghamton, NY, USA: Haworth Information Press).

    Now, wouldn’t that exercise have been a whole lot more interesting if I’d reached into my drawer and pulled out the book I wish I were reading:

    ‘His dust still floated over the road. A grasshopper leaped from his leg.
    “‘Mr Tinsley?”‘

    (From Proulx, A. (1999). Close range : Wyoming stories. New York, NY: Scribner).


    How to search Libraries Australia from the comfort of your blog

    15 February 2008

    I talked a bit in the previous post about the value of Libraries Australia for finding useful Australian and international content. Like Google Book Search, you can use the Libraries Australia catalogue to find out which libraries stock the books you need.

    Blogger users can now add a Libraries Australia search box to their blogs (sorry WordPress users — we miss out again!):

    1. Log in to your blog
    2. Click the ‘Customize’ link in the top right hand corner of your screen
    3. Make sure you have selected the ‘Page Elements’ tab
    4. Click on the link to ‘Add a Page Element’
    5. A new window opens
    6. In the new window, scroll down to ‘HTML/JavaScript’ and click the ‘Add to Blog’ button
    7. Choose a name for your search box, eg ‘Search Libraries Australia’, and enter this in the ‘Title’ box
    8. Copy and paste the following code to the ‘Content’ section:

    <iframe src=”http://librariesaustralia.nla.gov.au/searchbox/search_s.html&#8221;
    name=”lasearchframe” scrolling=”no” marginwidth=”0″ marginheight=”0″
    frameborder=”0″ style=”width: 15em; height: 7em;”>
    <a href=”http://librariesaustralia.nla.gov.au”>Search Libraries Australia</a>
    </iframe>

    9. Click ‘Save Changes’ and the pop up window closes
    10. Use your mouse to move page elements around until you’re happy with the layout, then click ‘Save’
    11. When you view your blog, a green Libraries Australia search box should now appear

    (Code courtesy of the Libraries Australia website).


    A legacy to those who are yet unborn*

    15 February 2008

    In their recent book Libraries and Google, Miller and Pellen (2005) remind us that:

    ‘not so long ago Google did not even exist’ (p 1).

    Why do they need to emphasise this point? Is it because we never think about Google, and therefore have to be reminded of its existence? Hardly. On the contrary, it has become almost impossible for us to live through the day without Google. I should keep statistics on how often in the course of my daily duties I hit Ctrl+K (keyboard shortcut for the search bar in Firefox) and type in a word or phrase. When I’m creating records for the Swinburne Research Bank, there’s a good chance it’s over 200 times a day — and that’s only when I can’t find the information elsewhere.

    Actually, I just searched Google then to find a page of browser shortcuts. A quick finger flick, and I barely even noticed I did it, but nonetheless it happened. For me, blogging is a bit like research; I make a claim, either reasonable or outrageous, and then I have to find someone else’s words to substantiate it. We humans are sadly afflicted by the herd mentality; we don’t often believe in our own validity until someone else confirms it.

    Many librarians reject this notion; they consider themselves to be shepherds rather than sheep, guiding the unthinking herds towards greener pastures in the pursuit of more (brain) food. Brandishing bibliographic databases, scholarly resources and centuries of tradition, their crook can be a heavy one. Such an superior attitude unfortunately alienates many potential library users.

    No wonder so many people gravitate towards Google. It appears less aggressive, it requires no intermediary and it moves at users’ own pace — to all intents and purposes, Google is the perfect shepherd.

    (‘Del’, from marj_k’s Flickr photos and reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence)

    Librarians’ tendency towards academic snobbery makes many users look upon us not as benevolent shepherds, but as a pack of middle-aged, bespectacled sheepdogs snapping at their heels and barking endlessly about scholarly traditions. In an age where the constant availability of the Web encourages us to cut out the middle man, this puts librarians in a dangerous position. It’s no surprise, then, that many librarians consider teaming with Google to help build Google Book Search a betrayal of their loyalties.

    As per Task 15, I had a little play with Google Books, but I decided in advance that I’d be unlikely to use the service very often. If I’m searching for details on a book for personal reasons, I use the Books iRead application on Facebook, or since I signed up for Task 8, LibraryThing. If I’m running a search on a book for work purposes (ie to create a metadata record), I need more detailed information than Google can give me, and this is best found through Libraries Australia, the online national bibliographic database hosted by the National Library of Australia in Canberra. When I’m searching for research by Swinburne authors on the history of Victoria’s premiers, the chances are that I’ll be looking for a text published here in Australia.

    Since Google Books has no Australian library partners, even with the vast collections that have already been digitised, such as the New York Public Library and Harvard University Library, there is little hope of me finding specific local works in Google Books. Right?

    Wrong.

    I searched for ten books, all containing Australian content and most published here, and I found every one. Sure, there was only brief bibliographic information, and I couldn’t preview chapters from all of the books, but they were indisputably there, and all I had to enter to find them was the title of the work and sometimes an author name. Many of the citations I receive to create records for Swinburne Research Bank are sketchy, with only one author name and the (frequently incorrect) title of the work. The capacity for Google Books to provide useful information on Australian content is good news indeed for me — Google can, in fact, help me with my work. I’ve caught myself out being a librarian snob.

    Many young school leavers about to embark on university careers are reluctant to use books as resources, and this is partly because of the absence of a keyword search. The attempt by Google Books to remedy this problem — that is, to help users find printed texts through keyword searches — is admirable, but leads, as Dana laments, to the loss of valued serendipity. I agree with this sentiment; I went downstairs yesterday to pick up a book, and found an even better one sitting on the shelf right next to it. How could that have happened if I’d never visited the library?

    This is an inevitable shortcoming in an online book search, and we’ll have to live with it for a while. At the moment, the closest we have to online serendipitous browsing is the user recommendations on social sites like LibraryThing and Google Reader. Google Books’ MyLibrary function still has a long way to go, although it does have some great features like book clip embedding and popular passages. And for once, these even work in WordPress:

    Obe Advancing Ill met by moonlight proud Titania

    from The comedy of a midsummer night’s dream, by William Shakespeare

    It is understandable that many librarians are suspicious of — or even openly hostile towards — Google. As long as Google remains the first port of call for simple ready reference questions, there will always be a fear that the search giant threatens the future of our profession. Yet I’m a new librarian, with potentially another 40-odd years in the workforce, and I’m not worried at all. I maintain that there will always be plenty of scope for a librarian’s professional skills, even if this may not necessarily be in the traditional context. We need to remember our expertise and our mission — to help our users gain access to as much useful information as possible — and to bear in mind that if anything, the expansion of the internet makes our role more crucial than ever. Assuming that Google can’t help us or our users in our quests for knowledge is naive. To put it into perspective, even with enforced legal deposit laws in Australia, Libraries Australia still only houses 42 million records, while the University of California alone can contribute 34 million items to Google Books. By ignoring the powerhouse that is Google, who are we serving — our users or ourselves?

    Miller and Pellen (2005) are resigned to the inevitability of Google, and distinguish between two groups, those librarians who ‘hate or fear‘ Google, and those who ‘love it and embrace it‘ (p 1). I’m not sure it’s quite so black and white as that. I admit to using Google search and some Google tools every day, but that doesn’t blind me to their limitations. As research tools used independently and in isolation of other (more reputable) resources, their inability to assess and evaluate content makes them dangerous. But then, our prized bibliographic databases are beginning to index blogs and other grey literature, which begs the question: in the hands of an inexperienced user, are databases really so much better than Google?

    So what next? I don’t support Tara Brabazon’s notion that we should ‘ban’ students from using Google and Wikipedia — anyone who experienced a single sex education knows that banning something only makes it more desirable. Nor am I (obviously) going to advocate that we abandon millennia of knowledge and let the culture of amateurship prevail. That way, danger and the dark ages lie.

    Google Books is far from perfect. As this tongue-in-cheek post from TechCrunch notes, the scanning is not always of particularly good quality, and Campus Technology argues that the product is nowhere near ready for general use. However, when there’s a growing tendency for students to only seek fast, easy web-based access to information, surely there is some value in a service that provides online access to books, the original information container? The majority of books go through at least some editorial process, even to the level of peer review. We worry about the inability of inexperienced users to evaluate resources, but sitting around lamenting the rise and rise of Google and Wikipedia isn’t going to help. We need to be proactive, and one of the ways we can do this is to encourage our users to delve into books. And if this happens online, with the assistance of a keyword search, so be it.

    * ‘Books are the legacies that a great genius leaves to mankind, which are delivered down from generation to generation as presents to the posterity of those who are yet unborn.
    Joseph Addison

    Further reading:

    Update: I’m so glad this wasn’t a class assignment, because I failed. Here’s the text I referenced:

    Miller, W., & Pellen, R. M. (2006). Introduction : libraries and their interrelationships with Google. Libraries and Google. Binghamton, NY, USA: Haworth Information Press.