Monday, March 10, 2008

Google and Libraries One Day Conference

Hello, today, I went to a one day conference. Google and Libraries, An International Conference Sponsored by the International Information and Analystical Center (ILIAC) at the Harriman Institute and Columbia Libraries. I took the #2 subway train up to Columbia University around West 118th street. Columbia University in New York is an edifice of brick and stone with very little greenery. It is in an exclusive area in the upper west side of New York.

The conference was on the fifteenth floor. They had coffee when I got there at 8:45 a.m. in the morning. The Metro New York Library Council listed the event.

When I got there the room was full. It was rather interesting, because many of the people were from Russia or other European Union countries. There were four speakers that day. They covered a huge amount of material. I won't be able to even finish writing about it in this post, there was so much material covered. The four speakers were Yakov Shraiberg, Jill Cirasella, Laura Quilter, and Siva Vaidhyanathan.

They all managed to hold my interest for the whole conference. I found these particular things which they talked about in each session to be the best parts of the sessions.

Yakov Shraiberg in his session, Google and Libraries of Russia & the CIS quoted Larry Page with the following quote, "The best working search engine is the one that comprehends what the user is seeking and provides him/her exactly what he/she wants." In Russia, Google is the third most used search engine after Yandex and Ramber. is completely in Russian, so is

Jill Cirasella in her session, Reference Retooled: How Google Tools Strengthen and Streamline Reference basically spoke an ode to how useful Google tools are for the reference librarian. She mentioned a couple of new tools which I hadn't heard of, Google Suggestions, a tool which comes up with suggested endings for searches, and Google Sets, a tool which identifies words that part of a set. These are both example of where Reference often fails to clarify a question. They are both experimental search engines part of the Google Labs website I am not quite sure what this means.

She also showed the video which I have seen at many conferences, Information Revolution by Michael Walsh. The video is available on the internet, however, he specifically asks that you not post it on your website if you sell anything. I am not posting it here because of this. With this, she suggested that people read the article "Ontology Is Overrated" by Clay Shirky.

At this point after the first two speakers we had lunch. I chose vegetarian, because most take out vegetarian is better than ham and cheese sandwiches. They had a mozzarella, red pepper, and eggplant sandwich for vegetarians.

The third speaker,

Laura Quilter talked about Google, Digitalization Projects, and Library Contracts.

A lot of this was about how Google often presented difficult contracts for libraries to follow for digitization of their books. There are numerous lawsuits going on against Google Books, specifically, the Association of American Publishers, and the Publishers and Authors Guild concerning copyright. The lawsuits are focused on Fair Use. Google is claiming that Google Booksearch is a form of Fair Use, while others are claiming it is not.

In response to the Google Digitalization Projects, Microsoft has formed the Open Content Alliance, another digitalization project for public domain materials.

Apparently, many libraries that participated in the Google Digitalization projects are having difficulties with the contracts. There are often exclusivity clauses on how the scanned materials can be used. Also many libraries are reacting against the idea of turning what they consider public domain use over to a private company like Google. The issues presented were interesting. To find out more please look at her website

The last speaker was Siva Vaidhyanathan, whose presentation was The Googlization of Everything. What was very interesting was that he said that Google personalizes all of its searches to the individual based on the IP address or the log in to Google of the person in question. This mean different people get different results based on their search histories.

Siva talks about how Google is trying to become a "Universal library." Their mission statement is very similar to what librarians normally do. He quotes Google with this "To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible." He also quotes the famous line attributed to the unofficial byline of Google, "Don't Be Evil."

He is also is quite critical of Google in some ways. He thinks of them as a private company moving into an excessively public space. The Google definition of "Fair Use" is quite expansive.
He has a blog . Unfortunately, it was down today, Monday, while he was at the conference. He was taking notes though. I think he will post quite a bit.

I was surprised. You could almost say that Wikipedia is becoming all things to all people. It is part of the universal library concept. I have noticed that Wikipedia is increasingly showing up at the top of Google searches. They are becoming more and more popular. I like to think that some of the original founders who were part of the Dorsai Embassy, decided to get together and build the "Final Encyclopedia," a concept forwarded by Gordon R. Dickson as part of his Childe Cycle in science fiction. This is of course a silly rumor. Still, I hope it spreads a bit.

I use both Google and Wikipedia regularly. Google is my favorite for general searches, but for directory searches, I still like Yahoo. For concise searches, I often use Mamma. They are different tools used for different purposes. If I want to find web sites with databases built into them I use Complete Planet which is a site listing over 70,000 searchable databases.

The one disappointment I had with this conference is that they did not provide me with a permanent name badge with the name of the conference. I would have added it to my bag of conference buttons. I got a staples peel off to put my name on. I have the conference program, I may save it. They also had a nice wall calendar in russian and english as a free giveaway.

I am very surprised at the quality of the conference. Very few one day conferences have interesting speakers for all four sessions.