Along Came a Spider: Google Search and Special Collections Access

In June I will give a poster session at the American Theological Library Association (Louisville, KY). I’ve been fascinated with the like/dis-like tensions librarians often have with Google Search. On the one hand, librarians are careful to point out the limits of Google Search for researchers. While at the same time they themselves use the search tool for their own work. I’ve found Google Search to be very useful as a pointing tool – to bring attention to our Special Collections @ Drew University. The following paragraph summarizes my poster session:

Librarians often have a contentious relationship with Google. Critics of the search engine argue the tool is inefficient for deep searching or for finding quality information in a timely manner. Others argue that researchers tend to use Google Search instead of accessing standardized library catalogs for research-related materials. While these concerns are certainly legitimate, the search tool can also put scholars, students, and web-users in touch with special collections and archival materials they might never locate through a library catalog or electronic database. This poster session will provide a brief overview of how Google Search spiders function and more importantly how the tool can be used to promote and provide access to special collections and archival materials under basic bibliographic control. The presenter will provide commentary and examples on how both library catalogs and Google Search actually work side-by-side to provide users with much greater access to rare and special collections materials.

Planning for the session has been interesting. I’ve learned more about Google spiders (or Googlebots) than I thought I would. And, I realize the potential of the search tool in connecting researcher with material. Library catalogs and electronic databases are important tools – but there are other ways to bring attention to one’s collections. It’s just a matter of harnessing Google’s potential and re-directing its functionality to promote your special collections that are not catalogued but under some form of basic bibliographic control. The search tool is not without flaw but does provide another route to bring patron and non-cataloged materials together.

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