LSJ Editors' Blog: New Thomson search engine

21 September 2006

New Thomson search engine

Thomson Gale takes on the Internet with a new search engine for, surprise surprise, Thomson Gale products. The AccessMyLibrary search engine searches some of the information in Thomson products and then links to the full text.

How does it work? Students do a keword search, get a list of results from Thomson products, click on a source, and view a small portion of the information available in that source. They can then click on "full text" to bring up a map. They find their area of the world on the map, choose their library from a list, enter their library card info, and there's the full text. And if you happen not to be a member of a participating library, then you have the option to purchase the article.

The point to all this (because obviously the point is not for Thomson to make more money) if you can get past Thomson's hideous prose:
Today, when individuals in your community are looking for information, many of them turn to internet search engines. While internet search engines are useful for many things, they don't let users know about important information resources that you have already purchased on their behalf that are available in your library... until now....Thomson Gale has invested in content, systems and technology, as well as worked with leading search engines to help bring users of search engines into your online library resources.
Frankly, I don't get it. Do people who use search engines constitute a group of libraryphobes that need to be tricked into discovering the library? (Go ahead, put your keyword in...that's it...see nothing to be afraid of, it's just a search just hit the enter button...) Thomson didn't have a way to search their databases before now? They're going to bring young people to online libary resources with a search engine that only searches Thomson products? Their search engine only searches some of each resource even though the resources are full-text?

The obvious thing to do would have been to provide Google results next to Thomson results. Students could compare the resources available without limiting themselves to only Thomson products, and it would have helped to develop an understanding about the respective uses and differences of library and Internet information. Instead, Thomson has placed their own results underneath results from Google Ads! I'm sure this started as a good idea, but it's got the feel of something that passed through the offices of way too many middle managers. I hope this is not the way "users of search engines" are introduced to the resources of their library.


Blogger burlapwax said...

Wow. I believe someone was charged with the task of Web2.0-ifying Thompson's public sector outreach.

The libraries referenced in results to my search were almost exclusively school libraries.

There's a plethora of misuses of web2.0 here--the cumbersome AJAX interface is mind-bogglingly slow--but the main thing I have against this system is that it may actually be doing a disservice to the libraries it's supposedly supporting.

Seriously. If they were doing a real service for libraries, they could have applied for a site license from OCLC to integrate the OpenWorldCat API with their find-in-a-library function, so that libraries would not need to register their library in order to be included in search results.

This is blatant advertising under the guise of altruism. I think this quote speaks for itself:

"Why is this good for my library?

We respect and appreciate the importance of libraries and the role they play in society. We have heard from many librarians that it can be difficult to effectively market their value to their students and communities. We have also heard from librarians that the popularity of search engines has made it even more challenging to make sure that your students and patrons start their search for information in your library. Thomson Gale has invested in content, systems and technology, as well as worked with leading search engines to help bring users of search engines into your online library resources.

Through our intimate understanding of how search engines work, we have designed a service that will make content from the products you have subscribed to 'visible' to search engines, while at the same time, make it easy for authenticated members of your library to access full text content from your premium databases. You'll enjoy increased exposure of your resources, increased usage of the products you have invested in, and you'll be reaching individuals in your community - even if they didn't intend to go to their library."

From the "Page about Librarians" (which I believe is intended to mean "for librarians."

Blogger burlapwax said...

However -- I'll rescind a little of the venom in my last post by affirming that this is a beta version. When they hear disgust from librarians and lukewarm reaction from the public, they may likely turn some of these things around.

The fact that they're partnering with Google isn't bad either, because it eventually might be more in the line of the Google BookSearch/Scholar integration with OpenWorldCat -- if search results for articles in, say, Google Scholar, are interfaced with library catalogs to determine database subscriptions, we may see much-increased use of services.

I'm still reeling, though, from the For-Librarians page. Try this quick quote: "Even in the open web, your opinion counts and we welcome any feedback you have on how to improve this service."

There's a sea of failed "search engines" out there, so I don't want to put much more thought into this one. However, I must point out that unless their search results end up being integrated with a major search engine like Google, Yahoo, or Ask, their target audience will never find "".

Unless they have a TV advertising budget. But Thompson's a smart company -- they won't pump money into this unless it morphs into a functional and effective tool.

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