Not a day passes that I don't get some communication relating to Google's ongoing projects, either announcing, reacting, or speculating. Since Google introduced its initiatives that directly impact libraries and the information industry—Google Print, Google Library, and Google Scholar—the buzz and debate continue to send shock waves through our landscape. Bloggers are commenting, librarians are investigating, vendors are wondering, and conference presenters are exploring the issues. And, the issues relate to some core questions: copyright, access, search problems (dates, multiple copies, etc.), digitization projects, distribution, partnerships, business models, and more.
At the NFAIS annual conference, going on right now in Philadelphia and blogged live by ITI's editors, Marydee Ojala and Dick Kaser (http://www.infotodayblog.com), Google's director of business development, Cathy Gordon, gave the opening keynote about "Capturing Diverse User Mindshare." Ojala noted that Gordon's talk contained "an implicit criticism of the traditional online hosts, as she noted that Dialog and LexisNexis underestimated the power of the Internet, preferring in the 1990s to concentrate on PC interfaces. They also were never successful in reaching the broad global audience that Google has." And, Gordon used to work for both Dialog and LexisNexis.
Much of the NFAIS conference seems to focus on if and how content producers should embrace new opportunities and business models in an age of Googlization. Discussions with Google representatives highlighted details of Google's three projects and Kaser reported that conference delegates "were urged to think about how their materials might be of use and interest to a wider market." Of course, the supposition is that Google would be the enabler to those wider markets.
Ojala reported that John Lewis Needham (Google's strategic partner development manager) said that Google Scholar was expanding beyond STM to social sciences and humanities, and he announced that Google Scholar was adding JSTOR journals (said to be only 10 journals, at this point). Ojala wrote: "As far as I can tell, they're all in the discipline of economics."
Sessions dealing with "the Google effect" are also planned for a number of upcoming conferences and events. At Computers in Libraries (March 16-18 in Washington, D.C.), Stephen Abram is speaking on how libraries should "take on Google." The ASIDIC Spring 2005 meeting (March 20-22 in New Orleans) will address the battle for the desktop between search engine providers and the scholarly information industry. Speakers will present their views of what the next generation of scholarly products will look like. Other programs and panels are planned for ALA, SLA, etc.
The February newsletter from CrossRef (http://www.crossref.org/01company/10newsletter.html) reported on an evaluation of the CrossRef Search Pilot with Google and its consideration of Google Scholar. (The pilot project was announced in April 2004. For information, see: http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbreader.asp?ArticleID=16457.) The CrossRef board has approved continuing with the CrossRef Search Pilot in addition to "engaging with Google to express publishers' concerns about certain aspects of the Google Scholar Beta and establish a more formal business relationship between Google and CrossRef."
There are now 35 of the 350 CrossRef member publishers and societies participating in the Search Pilot. The results have come from the regular Google index, but, starting in April 2005, results from CrossRef Search will be delivered from Google Scholar. The latest list of participants is at http://www.crossref.org/crossrefsearch.html.
According to the newsletter, Google agreed with the principle that if there are multiple versions of an article shown in the Google Scholar search results, the first link will be to the publisher's authoritative copy. Google would like to use the DOI as the primary means to link to an article so CrossRef and Google will be working on this as well as a template for common terms and conditions for use of publishers full-text content.
Finally, the snap poll question on the Infotoday site has been asking our visitors about using Google Scholar. There have been some interesting and thoughtful comments, pro and con. Some stressed its value as a complementary source to more traditional resources. One called it a helpful tool and wrote that it "can be handy for verifying articles requested through interlibrary loan, and for looking for online full text." Several people noted that it is hard to tell what is and is not included; its comprehensiveness is also questionable, even when it claims to cover a publisher's site.
Nick Tomaiuolo pointed to Péter Jacsó's Side-by-Side Native Search Engines vs. Google Scholar site (http://www2.hawaii.edu/~jacso/scholarly/side-by-side2.htm). According to Jacsó's "Preliminary tests have shown that Google Scholar often retrieves far fewer unique items than the native search engines of the publishers. On the positive side, Google Scholar links to citing references if the document was cited by journals indexed in Google Scholar, and provides the immensely useful citedness score of the documents....When Google Scholar has more ‘hits' for a query, they often turn out to be duplicates and triplicates."
Some observers feel that Google has stepped up to tackle tasks that vendors and librarians should have taken on. It will be interesting now to see whether vendors and librarians can embrace the new challenges and opportunities presented to them.