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More on Gormangate

:: As my friend Tony Dalmyn noted, I didn’t include a link to Michael Gorman’s original column in the LA Times, Google and God’s Mind, in the previous post about his Library Journal column about blogs, so there it is. I mention this because I want to draw your attention to a new blog, Quĉdam cuiusdam by esteemed colleague Peter Binkley, Digital Initiatives Project Librarian at the University of Alberta, in which he offers an insightful, informed and educated response to Gorman’s take on the Google project. Peter works on Peel’s Prairie Provinces, a major digitization project to enhance and improve access to the history of the Canadian prairie provinces:

Peel’s Prairie Provinces is a resource dedicated to assisting scholars, students, and researchers of all types in their exploration of the history and culture of the Canadian Prairies. The site contains both an online bibliography of books, pamphlets, and other materials related to the development of the Prairies and a fully searchable collection of the full texts of many of these items. As of September 2004, the Peel bibliographic database holds some 7,200 titles, approximately 2,500 of which have already been rendered in digital form and mounted on the Web site. These materials are extremely varied in terms of their content and provide an extraordinarily diverse picture of the Prairie experience. These items date back to the earliest days of exploration in the region and include a vast range of material dealing with every aspect of the settlement and development of the Canadian West. These sources are also highly diverse in regard to the cultural experiences that they reflect. Although English-language titles predominate, the databases contain a very substantial body of materials in French, Ukrainian, and numerous other languages.

The project is based on resources documented in Peel’s Bibliography of the Canadian Prairies. Gorman calls digitization projects “expensive exercises in futility”, easily interpreted by Peter as “wasting my time.” Scholars working in this area would beg to differ. Tony notes that Google “is a dumb brute which brings up lots of commercial and promotional sites and lots of oddball sites on any given search.” Fair enough, but it’s here to stay and is indexing scholarly material (such as IEEE Xplore, for example), and thus providing access to thousands of peer-reviewed publications (among others), including the full-text, if the user is on an IP-authenticated computer. Students are using it before any proprietary, scholarly database more often than not. Librarians face the task on a daily basis of informing students of the scholary datatabases available to them in addition to, but not necessarily in lieu of, Google.

That said, with the advent of Google Scholar, as mentioned, anyone can run a search and receive dozens, hundreds of citations to publications found in scholary journals, conferences, etc. Someone working in electrical engineering can run their search on the IEEE db, run the same seach on Google Scholar, and receive more results, because other scholarly publications are indexed there besides the IEEE db.

Perhaps Mr Gorman needs to rethink his dismissal of Google’s archiving project, drop the nasty tone (“Boogie woogie Google boys”? – give me a break), and revisit the issue. I wonder, is he upset because Google is undertaking something libraries might have be doing themselves, rather than in partnership with Google?

Discussion will continue. Mr Gorman’s dismissal of weblogs, subsequent to his criticism of the Google digitization project, is ironic, given the interesting and thought-provoking discourse that has followed on so many of them. For that reason, he is to be genuinely thanked – many librarians and others outside the field are engaged in valuable debate as a result. Read Barbara Fister’s “Google’s Digitization Project – What Difference Will It Make?“, in Library Issues, v25 n4, March 2005, for another perspective. Now I have to get back to work. (As posted to STLQ.)

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