The big thing Librarians still have over Google, though, is criticism and control. We not only know how to quickly manipulate Google’s search engine (and other companies’ engines) to discover decent results, but we are pretty good at separating the wheat from the chaff. I notice this especially with government documents and government data on the web: people who visit me at the reference desk who are looking for government data have a hard time finding information and then being able to verify its authority. There are no second readers on the web – people have to rely on their own experience and understanding of information organization and information architecture to locate documents, and then be willing to using them with confidence. Librarians, however, can help people locate information sources, draw relationships between items, and determine the value of this knowledge to their own work. For these reasons alone, we’re kind of a big deal and shouldn’t be afraid to say so.
Especially in this so-called digital age, our ability to help people choose information sources makes us essential to information management and research services. For all of our complaints about people’s reliance on the Google search engine and index, we can at least take comfort knowing that our “editorial” function vis-a-vis the Internet is still necessary and valued. What’s a curator but a selector of items of value? I’m not saying that librarians curate the web, but on the whole, we certainly have a broad understanding of the tools and resources needed to help you find what data you’re looking or to take your work to the next level.
[. . .]
Blekko won’t know, for instance, what titles our local public library holds, and neither it will be certain which electronic databases our local universities subscribe to. And I can pretty much guarantee it won’t have any Canadian socio-economic data (longform or no longform) and very few government documents. This is where the person on the ground – the librarian – can step in and act as an intermediary between our patron and what the Internet has to offer.
Go, read the full essay.