Gorman (& others) and Google Scholar


Grumpy Librarian writes "The Chronicle has a series of articles, including several by librarians, on the Google digitization project.

In this interview, ALA President-Elect Michael Gorman suggests that digitizing books is useless because it is much more efficient to browse the Library of Congress catalog using Subject Headings and then ILL them.

Gorman also complains that undergrads think 'they're getting relevant materials and a sufficiency of relevant materials to write papers and to do research' when they use google. Well, gee, maybe Google should add books to its collection.

And perhaps most bizarrely, Gorman suggests that while libraries are technologically advanced, 'That does not mean that everything can be dumbed down to some kind of hip-hop or bells-and-whistles kind of stuff.' Huh? [Emphasis added]"


Could the post be amended to point this out? I wasn't able to access the article.

"How did we elect this guy?"That's what I'd like to know. I'm not a member of ALA, so I don't know the story. Did he run unopposed? Was his opponent a block of wood? A light bulb? Frankly, I would have voted for the light bulb. At least it would have the good sense to keep its mouth shut when asked to comment on subjects it knows little about.

A little bit of skepticism toward Google is warranted, what with everyone going crazy over Google. It's not the Savior of the Universe the media seems to paint it as. As far as Google Books---I really have no idea WHAT it's going to do; we barely know what it's going to BE, Google isn't really going into details. Even if we did know, we couldn't be sure what it's going to do to the information/library landscape. These are issues that are important for libraries, and that require consideration. Google is not going to kill libraries, but libraries DO need to change if they are going to stay alive (and not just because of Google). The way they ought to, or will, change is not clear at this point.(But I'd echo the other poster that most library online catalogs are truly truly AWFUL, which has been the case since they went online, but becomes more apparent when contrasted with other online information retrieval systems (including but not limited to Google) which, while accomplishing somewhat different purposes, keep getting better and better making library catalog's awfulness more and more apparent. This is one thing that needs to change--a heavy dose of software systems improvement, but also a medium dose of cataloging code changes and a healthy dose of cataloging practice changes as well; dificult things all. But perhaps Gorman doesn't realize the awfulness of library catalogs becuase, as far as I can tell, he's never used any other information retrieval system whatsoever, considering them all evil. No doubt he's pissed about the online catalog in the first place, what was wrong with cards?)Unfortunately, Gorman seems entirely out of touch with reality (at least as far as it concerns technology), and is not the one to be having this conversation. He keeps saying things that don't make any sense at all and turn him into a self-parody (What's he doing complaining about HIP HOP now? Can someone remind him that we want to encourage diversity in the profession, not sound like racist idiots?) How did we elect this guy? I guess it's a backlash from those in the profession who are just pissed things are changing. Gorman seems to be, anyway. But Gorman, man, things are changing whether you like it or not. That doesn't mean all the changes are for the better (nor does it mean they're all for the worse), but if you (and we) want to have a say, have impact, in those changes we need to have a clue about what's going on, we need to make sense, we can't just be crotchety old men complaining about how in my day we had to walk six miles to school up hill both ways and it was good for us. Gorman is clueless.

I get so tired of the additude that so often greets new tools: that "because this is not the be-all and end-all of everything, and because it does not completely obviate the need for existing tools, it therefore is useless, dangerous, and should be destroyed."

Why do people insist on taking valid arguments for not throwing away existing tools, and turn them into perposterous arguments against trying anything new ever?

Obligatory Michael Gorman is an idiot!

But on a serious note, how completely out of touch with reality can any human being be and still consider themselves educated?

I appreciate Gorman standing up for libraries in light of all Google is doing. But I'm not so sure the library catalogs Gorman is talking about really ARE as good as he says. I work at a university with an awful online catalog - undergrads have trouble finding anything in it. And, obviously Gorman hasn't tried explaining LC subject headings to today's average 19-20 yr. old! It's a tough go, no matter how creative you get in your instructional techniques.

All that being said, I do see his point about the digitization project only providing snippets of information, which may be useless taken out of context. Don't forget that the American Association of University Presses recently made a statement expressing reservations about Google Print and how it affects copyright:

Lawsuits might derail that project from ever becoming what Google hopes it will be.


His hostility toward this very useful tool is surprising, and reflects poorly on his profession. I have a wonderful personal library, an outstanding public library nearby, and one of the country's largest university libraries down the road 2 miles, with access to every library in Ohio with a courier service, and I know how to use them. Still, I use Google several times a day just to answer questions that come to mind, to say nothing of checking and double checking news stories. And yes, my research skills are getting rusty, but the average person didn't have them to begin with, so they are ahead by using Google.

I have seen several of his comments about Google and its various projects. His comments only read true if someone is going to find and read an entire book on a specific subject. He forgets people might only want to read a chapter or a smaller section of a book. The searching he recommends relies on thorough subject headings being assigned and/or a good table of contents. What about browsing for a specific quote? What about just reading a few paragraphs that may not be specifically addressed by the subject headings of the entire book?

Yep, it lasts only a year, but his year begins in June.


The ALA presidency only lasts a year right? I keep teling myself, "This, too, shall pass!"

linky... fossil dude goes on to say "If you want to know about the dynasties of China, you're going to have to read a book. In fact, you're going to have to read several books."I'm reminded of a quote in The Name of the Rose, something like "Brother Salvatore is guilty.... of confusing the love of poverty with the hatred of wealth." I'm becoming more and more convinced that Gorman is confusing the love of accurate searching with the hatred of digital forms of information.

Maybe the April Fool edition wasn't so far off?

"Michael Gorman, president-elect of the American Library Association (ALA), has stepped down just months before assuming office. “It was the blog people, they did it,� said RLG’s Walt Crawford, a friend and co-author (Future Libraries: Dreams, Madness & Reality; ALA, 1995). “They made Mike’s life a living hell,� Crawford said in reference to the outcry following the publication of Gorman’s essay “The Revenge of the Blog People.� "