Why civilians use Google rather than library databases

David Rothman writes this very insightful commentary about why Google is friendlier than proprietary databases.

"Public librarians love to talk up library databases as a free way to access high-quality information. But wait. There is something you may give up in return--your sanity, considering the Rube Goldbergish tortures that librarians or at least their database vendors often inflict on innocent users.

So far this morning I've struck out in my efforts to use two of the three databases that I've tried from the library system here in Alexandria, VA. One worked but lacked the article I needed, while two others won't let me use the information on my library card--those 14 infuriating digits. Adding to the joys, I've suffered an arrogant, jargon-ridden error message associated with BigChalk Library, a gem that would do Microsoft proud. Via the message, the library system or at least BigChalk is asking me to scale back on privacy protections--rather ironic, given library world's laudable fight against the Patriot Act. I'm hardly the first to raise these issues, at least the usability ones; but as a public library booster, I hope that my thoughts will serve as a useful reminder of the problems. More at TeleRead."


I agree completely. About 6 weeks after retiring, I'd forgotten most of what I knew about searching the databases I'd taught at innumerable workshops. But it isn't just Google I prefer. At our public library, I'd rather ask the staff than try my hand at their on-line catalog. I try to find a person who won't just point in the direction of the call number but who will offer real service.

Yes, I couldn't agree more. Most people prefer the open nature of Google. But this does not mean effective search stragies can be ignored. Nor can you find "everything" via Google. Yet it is more user-friendly and geared towards the layperson. On the contrary, library systems are designed FOR cataloguers and librarians only, without consideration of the end-user. Library systems are as outdated as typewriters are. Yes, the problem is library systems are too proprietary and not based on open standards, and the library is hostage to the vendor for services and upgrades etc. There is no choice. For example, what if their service is poor? One cannot hire programmers to fix a problem because the vendor owns the source code and will not make it available.