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Edited by William Miller and Rita M. Pellen of Florida Atlantic University, Libraries and Google is a collection of scholarly articles written in the mid 2000’s regarding two then-new Google products: Google Print and Google Scholar. The book’s purpose was to explain why and how “Google has become a powerful presence in [librarians’] lives, and in the lives of almost all library users” (Miller, 2005). In addition, the book outlines the nitty gritty of Print and Scholar’s functionality, seemingly for librarians scared of losing their jobs and preservationists worried about the destruction of precious, publications.

In November of 2004, the latest in a chain of new Google “products” were announced, leading to a great deal of buzz in the library community, but surprisingly, Google had very little to say regarding the subjects of Google Print and Google Scholar. Google’s lack of response to calls to explain itself is why this book and its partner periodical were produced. These were some of the most relevant articles published on Google Print and Scholar in relation to the library universe in the year following Google’s announcement. The editors of Libraries and Google sought to make a timely work that explained the products’ impact in detail for interested library professionals.

The articles for this book were “co-published simultaneously in Internet Reference Services Quarterly, Vol. 10, No. 3/4, 2005.” A range of topics is covered with varying degrees of skepticism toward the “800-pound dragon” or “Goliath” (Egger-Sider & Devine, 2005, p.90) that Google is considered, by some, to be. There are the fairly innocuous “Disruptive Beneficence: The Google Print Program and the Future of Libraries” (Sandler, 2005) and “Evaluating Google Scholar as a Tool for Information Literacy” (Cathcart & Roberts, 2005). Then there are the paranoid and hesitant “The (Uncertain) Future of Libraries in a Google World: Sounding an Alarm” (Anderson, 2005) and “Running with the Devil: Accessing Library-Licensed Full Text Holdings Through Google Scholar” (Donlan & Cooke, 2005).

Google Print and Google Scholar obviously have had the greatest impact on academic libraries, and as such, a majority of the writers work in academic settings, whether as professors at Universities’ Library Science Programs or as Heads of Reference in University Libraries. Ironically, several of the authors repeatedly decry undergraduate students’ abilities to perform research while others discuss how great it is that the field of Library Science and Information Research have these new tools to utilize to help students who are “lazy” or simply ignorant on the subject of how to conduct proper research.

At any rate, the most important thing to consider in the year 2009 about Libraries and Google is the book’s relevance. The best thing that can be said for the publication nowadays is that it was, in fact, very important and relevant when it was published in 2005. While some of the explanatory information is still relevant today regarding the functionality of Google’s interface, products and services and while the authors make important observations about Google’s relevance to Libraries, the book is about Web technology and is four years old. The Google Print initiative was renamed Google Book Search in November 2005 (Grant, 2005), the exact month this book and its co-publication were published. Simply slicking the “more” link on Google’s Homepage reveals that today, what was Google Print is now known simply as Google Books. Google Scholar has retained its original name. Both products have, in the past four-and-a-half years, significantly evolved in the way their interfaces operate and the scope (number of books and languages included) of their projects. A lot of the authors’ concerns in Libraries and Google have now been addressed.

Comparing this book with more contemporary works like The Whole Digital Library Handbook (Kresh, 2007), a preview of which is currently available on Google Books immediately below Libraries and Google, or even the little-respected Wikipedia is interesting. TWDLH is more temporally accurate than Libraries and Google, but its focus is obviously less on Google and its products than on the concerns of being a Librarian in the Digital Age. Perhaps this writer will lose all credibility by saying this, but to some degree, as far as facts and dates are concerned, Wikipedia and digital news sites like it can be more accurate than a text. Publishing in print a capital “B” book regarding the state of technology does not seem like the best uses of funds in the Web 2.0 world in which 2009 operates.

All this being said, the writing in Libraries and Google is a welcome relief from the unedited bullet points that wind up on Wikipedia and tech blogs. Getting to read a well-researched text by fired up, educated Librarians who, for the most part, appear to want Google’s products (and other electronic reference sites and technologies) to be accurate, fully formed and useful for their patrons. More than once, article authors bemoaned certain features of Scholar and Print for not quite being as complete or usable as they could be for their patrons’ research studies. The pervasive attitude seems to be that librarians want these sources because they will help their patrons locate information more efficiently than the digital card catalogs the libraries can develop.
In this author’s opinion, Libraries and Google would have been a good use of a library’s funds in the fall of 2005, but definitely not in the summer of 2009. Too much has changed. For a library to keep up with all of these changes collection-wise, they should focus their funds and search efforts on aggregating useful, timely and relevant links and periodicals. After all, Libraries and Google is simply the November 2005 issue of Internet Reference Services Quarterly in book form.

Text Reviewed:
Miller, W., & Pellen, R. M. (Eds.). (2005). Libraries and Google. Binghamton, NY:
Haworth Information Press.
Works Cited:
Grant, Jen. (2005). Judging Book Search by Its Cover. Retrieved June 16, 2009, from
http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2005/11/judging-book-search-by-its-cover.html

Kresh, Diane. (2007). The Whole Digital Library Handbook. Texas: ALA Editions.
Google Books Library Project. Retrieved June 16, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Books_Library_Project

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