Google and Your Patrons

When: Friday, November 18 2005 11:00 AM
Where: Calhoun Community College, Huntsville AL
My Role: Attendee
Today I attended a teleconference put on as part of the “Soaring to Excellence” series of talks. “Google and Your Patrons” featured Steven Bell, with a brief phone appearance by Mary Ellen Bates.

I’ve done a bit of poking around Google on my own, and honestly didn’t expect to pick up much from the talk. Thankfully, I was proven wrong! Bell hammered on the point that while Google isn’t everything, if we dismiss it out of hand then we also dismiss our patrons who have come to depend on it.

Instead, why not show them how to use Google more effectively? I’ll take any teachable moment I can get. Make it clear that Google has limitations. As the patron (or student) gets to know Google better, point out features of library databases and other resources that will enhance and extend their search.

Beyond the central themes, I also picked up on a number of smaller items.
Google Ride Finder points out where taxis currently are in selected cities
Thumbshots and Dogpile have great visual methods of comparing what multiple search engines return.
-I’d forgotten the syntax for Open Worldcat results in Google: search for “Find in a library” as a phrase, along with what you’re looking for.

In the end, Bates and Bell both emphasized the need for balance. Show patrons that while there is Google, there is also more. Let them make their own conclusions.

Big Blog Brother

Cnet talks about high schools and universities using students’ blog contents against them.

Everything old is new again, eh?

I was a Junior in high school during Columbine (1999) and the aftermath thereof. The security crackdown was borderline obscene. One of my friends was nearly suspended for some fairly innocuous comments on his web page.

I’m sure the term ‘blog’ wasn’t in the popular lexicon yet back then, but the only real difference here is scale. I’ve heard current high school students describe their administration’s efforts to sneakily obtain invites to students’ social networking sites, with the sole objective of monitoring what is going on.

During my turn in the cycle, administrative types eventually got bored with the idea when there simply weren’t enough students’ web pages to warrant monitoring. Now that everyone and their goldfish has a blog, the supposed “threat” posed by kids fooling around is going to be massive and harder to ignore.

Now more than ever, students need to be educated about managing their online presence.

Gorman Redux

Over at the Librarian in Black, we have an account of Michael Gorman’s address to the California Library Association.

I don’t quite know how to react to Mr. Gorman anymore. Statements like “any idiot can design a web page” (in questioning why library schools teach tech classes) are just so blatantly incomplete and distressing. ‘Any idiot’ can also paint a painting, write a book, or do any number of other creative tasks. That doesn’t mean the end result is of high standards, or even legible. Shouldn’t that be obvious? Maybe someday these tech skills will be covered in everybody’s undergrad or high school classes, and Library Science degrees can drop the tech a bit. But we’re a long way from that point.

I suppose we should all just give up on technology, go back to the card catalog, and wait for the asteroid to wipe us out. Every time I read something about Gorman, I’m reminded of the professors at work who tell their students they “are not allowed to use any internet resources”. This despite the fact that we offer over two hundred and fifty legitimate, academic online databases. But, a rant for another time.

Unfortunately, Gorman didn’t stay to take any questions. As one of the commenters asked on LiB, I’d love to know how the audience as a whole reacted.

Amazon Mechanical Turk

Now this is interesting.

This morning Amazon launched their “Mechanical Turk” service.

Essentially, they’ll pay you a few cents at a time to do menial tasks. Example tasks include picking the best picture of a business out of a list (I’d guess this is for the A9 yellow pages listings) for 3 cents, or writing an auto part description for $.75.

I did six tasks in a few minutes just now. Each task has to be approved by a mysterious process before you actually see payment. I’m interested in how long the process will take.

Nobody is going to get rich off of these tasks, but do a few at a time and you will eventually build up a nice chunk of Amazon change.

This could also be a boon for the businesses who need menial tasks done.

Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposium

I’m all signed up for the Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposium in Chicago next month!

Jenny first mentioned it here, and there’s an official registration site . is also related, and has more information on each speaker.

I’m really excited for a number of reasons. First, gaming is an area I’m interested in even in my personal life. Learning how to apply the concepts and lessons learned to library work will no doubt be fascinating. Second, we’re in the process of working up a similar small scale symposium at work – I’ll be keeping an eye on how this one is run for ideas. Third, its my first business trip! And lastly, I’m excited about returning to Chicago. My brief exposure to it last June at ALA was a lot of fun.

And you know, maybe by December 5th I’ll be missing cold winters 🙂

Anyone else planning on attending?