LSJ Editors' Blog: A search debate

04 July 2006

A search debate

There's a great post over at The Shifted Librarian-- a debate about the future impact of "search" to libraries. Will the large search companies (Yahoo, Google, etc) replace the need for libraries? Moderated by Roy Tennant, Joe Janes argues that market forces will favor search as it becomes more ubiquitous, while Stephen Abram argues that libraries are about much more than searching. It's well-worth reading the entire thing, but here's a brief excerpt:

Joe: more than anything else, that's a market
they will if libraries let that happen
if their services are sufficiently powerful & ubiquitous, then people will go there
if the millions of searches going to them came to us, we would be overwhelmed in 20 minutes; we can't do anything with most of those services
"we don't call it adult services anymore since the internet" - search that phrase and you *won't* find your local public library, although that might be a market we want to branch out into
he's not sure it's an altogether bad thing?

stephen: wrong question, who cares? no one comes to libraries to search
users come to us for learning, community, and services
the top 10 websites provide a good community experience
we should be more worried about MySpace and Facebook, not the search engines
40% of all internet traffic is in MySpace - what is the potential that those folks have to do?

joe: points are well taken, but can't just dismiss search
a shared notion that algorithmic search will only take those services part of the way, so they are scrambling to add more on top of it
they've also tried Q&A services, but none have had enormous amounts of use, although it is acknowledgment that human beings can answer questions
search was *one* of the reasons people came into libraries
search was never the point, it's a means to an end, but it was a big point


stephen: with a bunch of North Americans on the panel, we're all just sharing our ignorance
teams are contextual
people work in teams on things they can't work on alone
Google, Yahoo, etc., are in the 20th century mass market model that TV was in
libraries create relationships with small groups of teens
libraries need to step up to the plate and stop trying to be about search and start trying to be about learning and community


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