Publications and Research

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Traditional research tools used by libraries, such as encyclopedias and catalogs (OPACs) were created in an age of print and information scarcity. They have not kept up with changes in the information world which assume an abundance of online information in different formats and interdisciplinary topics which attempt to solve ‘real world’ messy problems and not traditional theoretical questions. The traditional tools rest on an unwieldy and somewhat outdated collaboration between OCLC, LOC, private aggregators, librarians and faculty. The search results they deliver offer excessive information with very little guidance on how to systematically sift through them. This makes the research process harder and turns novice researchers towards Google. Information professionals and advanced researchers do not encounter these obstacles because they are familiar with the content and the process, and have access to better tools and can thus research more effectively. This paper argues that novice researchers looking for an overview of a research topic are better off starting with Google Books than with an encyclopedia or the catalog. To demonstrate this, the interdisciplinary topic of mindfulness was searched in an encyclopedia, a variety of OPACs, and in Google Books. Google Books returned the most relevant results with the least effort. The search lead to a host of questions which must be addressed if novice researchers are to use the traditional tools of research created collaboratively by educators, catalogers and librarians. Admonishing students not to use an advertising company such as Google for research is not enough; the traditional purveyors of research have to collaborate to offer a better alternative.


This work was originally published in Library Philosophy and Practice.



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