Did the librarian--and the NYT--give Google a chance?


While we've already pointed to this NYT story today David Rothman has some additional thoughts and links. "The New York Times has just run an article headlined When a Search Engine Isn't Enough, Call a Librarian. True, true, true. Even in the Google era, librarians can be great fact-trackers and BS detectors. Their very existence is one safeguard against tainted search engines compromised by advertisers. Goodness knows where we'd be if Microsoft eventually devoured the more idealistic crew at Google and public librarians weren't around. But wait: there's a catch. Turns out that a librarian and the Times may not have given Google a chance in the example the newspaper cited to show the need for librarians. More at TeleRead. Also see a Library Stuff item through which I spotted the Times article."


This is a true-life example of how an experienced reference librarian, with familiarity with book sources as well as Internet ones, can find an obscure statistic that a mere Google search did not.

It happened Friday.

A woman called, wanting the circulation figure for our local daily newspaper. She said she couldn't find it on the internet, and when she'd called the paper, they didn't know. They referred her to someone who was not in the building; she left a message on their voice mail, and then called us.

I knew some reference publications list such figures. One is the Gale Directory of Publications, but since we have not purchased a new ed. of that in years, the figures I found there were outdated. Still, I located in the front matter where their figures came from: the Audit Bureau of Circulation.

So I entered "Audit Bureau of Circulation" in Google and found their website. At first perusal of their home page, I thought the figure I needed was going to be something you had to belong to their organization and/or pay for to see, but fortunately I noted one listing with the magic word "free" ("E-circ - Free access") so I tried that, and <i>voila</i>! All I had to do then was pull down the appropriate state in the menu, enter the name of our fair city, and there the circ figure was, as of 2003.

I called the patron back and she was very impressed! She said if the person from the paper called, she'd tell them the librarian already found it.

Hey, I liked that example. You used a combination of Real World and Net in a way that HELPED the search! - DR