Friday, December 09, 2005

Why Students use Google, a mini rant

Okay, so have any of you used a library lately? Yeah, I know you have. I know Profgrrrrl has all kinds of issues with ILL. Obviously, writing a dissertation requires a little research. Before I answer the question, let me just share a couple of experiences. Keep in mind, I'm a skilled researcher with years of research work under my belt. Heck, I've even used a card catalog and those periodical indexes. Also, note that I'm not slamming librarians. Librarians are welcome to tell me who to complain to. :)

First, I go to the library web site. I'm an expert, so I know to look for articles in databases. Clicking on databases gives me a list of databases and, underneath those, subject areas. Luckily, I know what to do. I click on English. A list of more databases. Shew. I click on MLA. Shazaam! Another window opens. Okay, now I type in my search terms and get a nice list of sources. I find a source I'm interested in. I click on it to find out more. At the bottom of the citation, there's a button to indicate how I might retrieve this from my very own library. Shazaam! Another window opens. (Are you keeping track of windows? There's 3.) There's a link to check availability in my own library. Shazaam! Another window. (That's 4.) Okay now I'm seeing the journal title in the library database. Note that this is not a link to the specific source I found three windows ago. So, because I've come this far, I click the link to online access to the journal. Now I have to look up the specific article again, which means going back however many windows and finding the title, the author, or volume and issue. Half the time, the article wasn't available online. My favorite thing that happened was finding something they claimed was an electronic resource and they. didn't. have. a. link! I mean, come on! Another fun thing. When your library doesn't have the source, so you go to Google scholar to see if you can find it and you find out that the journal is available online for free! Hellooo.

Okay, look. I'm pretty patient, but sometimes I ended up 7 windows open and had to retype information only to find out the source was unavailable. And I'm not even going into the fact that I navigated here in the first place, knowing which database to use and what search terms might work. Most students would balk at step two or three--the list of databases. It's pretty frustrating. And since most students don't give themselves enough time to find information, they'll give up pretty quickly, I think.

Oh, and can we get federated searching, please? I hate, hate going to so many different databases to run the same search. That's another reason students use Google. They feel like they're casting a wider net. When doing interdisciplinary work, this is really an issue. Many of the databases are subject specific. So, for example, I'm searching in Language and Literature (aka English), Education, and Social Sciences. It would be nice to not have to go through all of that, but, unlike many students, I want to find the best possible sources.

There's got to be a way to make this easier. If we don't, students will continue to use Google.