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Monday, April 15, 2024

Google Librarian Central: Talking At Librarians

Google has created the Librarian Central Blog just in time for ALA Midwinter. The decision to create the weblog arose from their request for suggestions from librarians on how to improve the Google Librarian Newsletter, the two common ones being ‘make it a blog’ and ‘give us more current information’. The new weblog provides access to a number of resources for librarians, such as teaching tools, ‘your stories’ and videos. There are also links to eleven (count them – eleven) librarian weblogs and over 25 Google weblogs.

As Google has identified librarians as an important group, although there are some cynical comments about quite why, it seems sensible to create a weblog for them. I hope that it’s going to be a valuable addition to the resources that they already make available. That’s about as positive as I can get about this initiative I’m afraid.

The comments from the library community have been quite muted so far, and there have only been one or two references to it so far, though it is early days of course. While the comments are generally, though not exclusively welcoming much of the commentary relates to the fact that, while Google is apparently encouraging librarians to talk to them this requires them to send an email to them. Yes, that’s right – they haven’t turned on the comments option! I think the clue here is to be found in one line in the latest blog entry “We’re excited about communicating Google’s product and feature launches to you as they happen.” So one may be forgiven for thinking that they’re actually rather more interested in doing in using the weblog as another marketing platform aimed at a niche market.

What’s worse is that it’s a very niche market indeed which is to say ‘American librarians’. Now, perhaps it’s because I’m from Britain, but I’m a little bit touchy about this. The link to ‘Your Stories’ are almost entirely US based, the search tips are heavily biased towards the US, and the Librarian quiz starts by asking ‘What does Google US Government Search let you do?’ I don’t actually have any problem with any of these resources as they stand, but what I think is open to debate is why these are the only ones available, and why does Google consistently ignore librarians who are not based in North America? If they don’t have the time or resources available to create different resources then the very least they could do would be to make the ones they do have a little more global in appeal.

The logo used for the weblog is slightly disturbing as well, given that it’s an image of a physically imposing building with the word ‘Library’ over the main doors. It’s a very traditional concept which at least is rather better than the image of the three books they were using (mentioned in Steven Cohen’s blog previously linked to), but doesn’t exactly show librarians in the dynamic, forward looking and technologically attuned way that I know a lot of them want themselves to be viewed.

I really want to believe that Google has a real, enthusiastic, and global interest in librarians, and what they’re doing with and on the internet, but I’m not yet seeing it displayed, nor do I expect to see it displayed any time soon, given their past performance. However, let’s hope that this blog proves me completely wrong.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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