The Digitization Of The Library

Although the Google Library program has grabbed most of the headlines since it was first announced last December, I’ve tried to point out some of the other programs (many have been around for years) working to digitize the full text of books and other materials. Today, the MSNBC article, Turning books into bits, offers a look at what some of these projects are up to.

Here are some other SEW Blog posts:

Unfortunately, the article doesn’t include any mention of some of the impressive digital book sevices provided by ebrary and NetLibrary that are also accessible online.

You’ll also read about OCLC’s Open Worldcat program that provides bibliographic records for millions of items and makes them accessible to Yahoo and Google’s crawlers. Useful? Absolutely! However, like I said last week, simply making material crawlable doesn’t mean it will be easily accessible. In other words, there are big differences between crawlability and accessibility and visibility. Every great result can’t be in the first five of six links on a results page. I think this is one of the many reasons why we’re seeing a growing interest in vertical search tools.

If you’re looking for a wonderful vertical that provides easy access to over 120 million bibliographic records and then allows you to click and find out if your library has a copy (it also even format your bibliography), make sure to check out RedLightGreen. Here’s an overview about the database that I posted a few months ago.

Final Comments
+ Like I’ve said so many times, remember that the world of the library and librarian now exist beyond the four walls of the library building. My guest column for BetaNews offers a look at some of what’s available. Btw, interest in librarianship these days is booming. The library school I attended has it’s highest enrollment ever.

+ Carol Brey-Casiano, the current president of the American Library Association, is correct with what she has to say in the article. Librarians are trained researchers and increasingly becoming key teachers of online research skills. She points out that 50 percent of the questions her own public library in El Paso receives “are about Internet research: how to narrow their search, whether a resource is reliable.” Critical information skills might be more important these days that ever before.

Those of us who “watch” and “live” search often forget that make little to no use of what an engine can provide in terms of creating a better search. As engines grow larger with more content and also offer new services, it’s going to become even more important that basic and even advanced search and retrieval skills are something that the general public understands. At this point simply knowing that services other than the basic web search are available, would be a start.

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