Posts Tagged ‘ Databases ’

Just Google It

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Yesterday, a friend from college sent me this text: “Think I broke the spirit of the librarian at my internship because he couldn’t find something on the database and I was like can we just Google it and it worked.”

I’ve had a lot of conversations in library school about the relevance of and need for librarians in the age of search engines. Obviously, I think there is still a place for information professionals; if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be so intent on becoming one. We can and will serve as navigators, evaluators, educators in information literacy, content creators, and more. But I object to the reflexive, slightly desperate way in which some people in the field defend themselves against real or imagined accusations of obsolescence. There is some tendency to over-compensate, to insist that any information that is widely available and easily found has little value, and that the only sources that are really worthwhile are those that require us, the librarians, to act as guides to them. The fact is, though, that there are times when Google is the way to go.

Generally, however, journals and databases are enormously valuable resources. But I have a real issue with them, or at least with their current distribution model, which shuts out people without connections to an institution that can afford the ridiculously expensive subscription fees. Even if money is no object, it is frequently impossible to get an individual subscription. I find it really problematic that so much information—the very information that we as a profession insist is really valuable—is made inaccessible. There are a small number of public institutions (bless you, NYPL) that do offer access to certain subscription-only resources, and a handful of open-access journals and repositories (like Harvard’s DASH), but these aren’t the norm. I feel strongly that these models need to become the standard. Aren’t we the ones who say that information wants to be free? Open access and other solutions to this problem are already being widely discussed. What I haven’t heard anyone mention is the conflict of interest that arises when librarians, who claim to strive for “equitable access” (see the 1st statement of the ALA’s code of ethics), continue to push resources that by nature create an inequality of access.

Image: Knuckles, with design both topical and subcutaneous, of the lovely and talented Jess Versus.

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