How are librarians better than Google? Let me count the ways…

April 20, 2012

One of the librarians I work with provided chat reference to one of our students.  She received, what I think, is a great compliment.  The student was very appreciative, and said, “You are better than Google!” 

I still believe (in certain situations) that the human touch is more important than the impersonal results you get from Google.  Now, for finding addresses, quick facts, hours, retail information, and for lots of things, Google is great.  I use it all the time.  However, for hardcore research, and for those times when your search is just not coming up with what you want, nothing is better than turning to a professional.  Forbes magazine even gets into the fray, touting the importance of the school librarian in this article.  If you think that Google can completely replace the thinking human being, you are setting the next generations up for a disaster.

Here are a few ways that librarians are better than Google:

  • We know the best ways to use databases–all the tricks, including on Google–that can cut research time by a ton!
  • We know which databases will give the best results–no need to search EVERYTHING.
  • We can listen to what the student wants, and hone the search to include additional synonymous terms. 
  • We can use our human brains and continue to think through the question, maybe even helping the student in defining their research question.
  • We can assist in interpreting results, and help with analyzing, deciphering, and evaluating.
  • We can be a constant, friendly, and authoritative presence that students can count on when they need help.
  • We understand about technology and new tools being used and developed everyday.  Because we keep up with these things, you don’t have to!

I really couldn’t say it better than Phil Bradley did:

Librarians are there:

To help, aid, assist. To teach, collate, enthuse. To catalogue, index, arrange, organise. To find, discover, promote, display. To interest, intrigue, amuse and amaze. To instill wonder. To help children, adults, old people, the underprivileged, the rich, the poor, those with voices and those without. To protect resources, to archive them, to store them, to save them for the future. To provide differing viewpoints, to engender thought, conversation, research, fun. To provide the best answer possible, to match the answer to the enquirer, to provide just enough information without overwhelming the user, but enough to always help. To better a local community, a company, a school, a college, an organisation, a country, the world.

Google is there:

To make money.

Google is a business, and a great business.  However, we need to show students how to make Google work for THEM, not to have them become a slave to Google.  There are many resources out there–to find truth, people need to have a wide array of options coming from many places and viewpoints, and not just the ones that Google puts at the top of the first three pages.

In a world where Wikipedia can be heavily relied upon by students (and 60% of information can be in error), we need librarians and teachers to instruct students on how to best retrieve, analyze, use, and reject information.  We need to show the massive amount of options so that no one has a monopoly over information.  Without an educated and informed populace, those in power can easily (and, in this Internet age, quickly) manipulate that populace, destroying the democratic principles that we all want to protect.


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