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Magazines > Online > May/June 2005
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Online Magazine

Vol. 29 No. 3 — May/June 2005

The HomePage
All Generalizations Are False, Including This One
by Marydee Ojala
Editor • ONLINE

It’s wonderful how people generalize. All librarians wear their hair in a bun and delight in shushing people. Everyone in the mainstream media is a liberal. All bloggers are journalists. No one finds relevant information using Google. All generalizations are false, including this one.

I spent last week at Computers in Libraries (CIL) and several days this week at the Indiana Library Federation (ILF) annual conference. I didn’t see a single “librarian” hairdo at either event. Nor did anyone shush me. In fact, librarians can be downright rowdy and raucous. The generalizations about mainstream media and bloggers are actually two halves of a too-widely accepted misunderstanding. During the last U.S. presidential campaign, it appeared that bloggers on the left saw their writings as the only antidote to the political right. Yet there are conservative journalists in the mainstream media, and although a few bloggers were given press credentials to both the Republican and Democratic conventions (and to CIL as well), that doesn’t mean the millions of bloggers on the planet consider themselves journalists.

Journalists are worried about bloggers subverting the power of the press and changing the face of the news business. A blog post is faster than a newspaper can print and a TV station can broadcast. Bloggers can be excellent fact checkers. Dan Rather found that out the hard way. I’m surprised librarians aren’t as worried as journalists are. If you’re the librarian responsible for the fact checking, and you miss something, will a blogger prove to be a more competent information professional than you are? When conducting research, how many librarians routinely search a blog search engine, such as Daypop, Feedster, or Technorati? Do you include Google Groups in your resource toolbox? What about the social networking tools such as Furl (reviewed by Mary Ellen Bates on the last page of this issue)?

I know many information professionals who rely heavily on RSS feeds to keep up. Even our premium content suppliers, such as Factiva, are beginning to institute RSS feeds. Equally, I know information professionals who dismiss RSS as time wasters, adding to their information overload. As Vivísimo’s Raul Valdes-Perez said March 1, 2005, at the NFAIS conference (blogged at www.infotodayblog.com), the problem isn’t information overload; it’s information overlook. When there’s too much data, we overlook some of it. That’s what’s happening with some of the new avenues and formats of information.

No one finds relevant information using Google. This derives from comments made over the past 2 years, in print, by the ILF keynote speaker, ALA president-elect Michael Gorman. In his keynote, he made a comment about all the “unusable hits on Google.” It elicited knowing smiles from the librarian audience. Unfortunately, it’s also wrong and silly. More people search Google—and are satisfied—than can find their public library. Google’s IPO and rising stock price show the public’s confidence in its search algorithms. Libraries, on the other hand, struggle for funds and to prove their relevance. Disrespecting Google is counterproductive behavior for information professionals. Denying credibility to technological advances makes the profession look foolish and uneducated. I won’t generalize that all technology is good. It isn’t. Some, however, will be imperative in moving the profession forward.


Marydee Ojala [marydee@xmission.com] is the editor of ONLINE. Comments? E-mail letters to the editor to marydee@xmission.com.

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