Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Big Bang - Google Scholar

My antennae are tingling--actually, clanging is more accurate. I think Google Scholar is (to use a really over-used phrase) a paradigm shift. Not that this perception is particularly clever as lots of people in the blogosphere and on listservs are musing along the same lines, right now.

So, what paradigm has shifted? Certainly the one that many librarians like to cling to: that little of any worth is retrieved in a Google search. This has never been absolutely true but being able to do a good search, and then isolate the wheat from the chaff was required, and it is also true that this was difficult for many people.

No more. I came across one blog entry from Dog News that points out the amount of scholarly material identified using Google Scholar on dog studies and animal shelters. This is how scholarly material is going to come to "the people" rather than the people coming to scholarly material which is the current paradigm at work in libraryland, and one that consistently fails to be attractive to searchers.

Google Scholar exposes the many instantiations of scholarly content available on the web, much of it accessible. Content that exists as an article in a subscription-based library-only accessible database often also exists as a pre-publication version on the author's web site, and/or as a conference presentation. For many searchers, these versions will be adequate as few people require the content have the imprimature that publication in a peer-reviewed journal bestows. Scholars may prefer the "real" version but I would bet a substantial amount of money that regular searchers like me will be satisfied, in most cases, with an immediately accessible version.

To someone who had to teach students the intricacies of the various Citation Indexes, I can only gaze in awe at the little link in each record "Cited by..." So easy, so integrated, so many person hours of bibliographic instruction no longer necessary. As Google explains, "Google Scholar also automatically analyzes and extracts citations and presents them as separate results, even if the documents they refer to are not online. This means your search results may include citations of older works and seminal articles that appear only in books or other offline publications."

In the FAQs, libraries are mentioned several times as Google makes sure people understand that much of the content identified will be in libraries, and that discovery of that content may need to be done through a library interface. And OCLC gets a mention too, for providing the service behind the "Library Search" link. I'd like to think that the Open WorldCat program has been instrumental in Google's decision to release Google Scholar.

For a good detailed look at Google Scholar, go read Gary Price and Shirl Kennedy on it, at ResourceShelf

The harbingers of our collective future have been for a long time, many, overt and often ignored. But there's nothing quite so salutory as a Big Bang to get reluctant wishful thinkers to pay attention. Pay attention. Google Scholar is a Big Bang, and others will follow. No doubt Yahoo will provide some way very soon of scoping their substantial amount of scholarly content.

So, is this The End of The World As We Know It? It just might be. And actually, I do feel fine.


Alice said...

I love REM!

Anonymous said...

you know, you really need to get yourself a URL with a better name than scanwhatever... but anyway, good post!

A l b a said...

The Resourceshelf blog gave a link to a Polysearch engine that allows users to compare the results posted from Google Scholar and those from particular databases.

The change in paradigm will certainly have to change - I agree.


Anonymous said...

Kept hearing people talk about Voip and IP Telephony. Didn't know what it was but i found the Lloyds Business website and it shed some light. Not as exciting as i though it was gonna be