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ONLINE SEARCHER: Information Discovery, Technology, Strategies

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Google’s Custom Search: Where Did It Go?
Volume 40, Number 6 - November/December 2016

Ten years ago I went to at least one ALA session with the trendy topic Death of the OPAC. Being a generally optimistic person, I thought this had a tinge of hyperbole. After all, the OPAC was the latest in a long line of technologies in place to connect library users with the books they needed. Then the OPAC was replaced in most libraries by some sort of discovery platform—software designed to overlay the “old-fashioned” catalog and serve it up in a more “intuitive” format for users who had grown up in the age of Google.

Fast-forward to 2016. I was at ALA in Orlando and made it a point to attend the Tech Trends panel. These speakers talked about “makerspaces.” They talked about hijack software. They talked about virtual reality. As I walked out, I realized that they weren’t even mentioning the online catalog. When catalogs went from text-based to web-based, many libraries strove to create the most eye-catching and effective OPAC—a source of pride for town or college. Now online catalogs don’t even get a mention, which is a fate worse than death.

As you may have guessed by now, this article isn’t really about OPACs; instead, I am taking a broad look at technologies that flare brightly, dim somewhat, and then adapt to a changing world. Or not. Vinyl phonograph records looked to be headed for utter destruction in the 1980s, but somehow, they still exist as a niche prestige item for music purists. On the other hand, what collector proudly shows off his or her collection of 8-track tapes? Radio not only found its place in a world of television, but is now expanding to the world of cyberstreaming.

Google Custom Search Engine, or CSE, was a very important tool for me. Anyone with a Google account can set up a CSE. This product was released in the fall of 2006, and I was an early adopter. 

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Terry Ballard is a retired librarian who worked in public and academic libraries. He is the author of three books and more than 75 articles, mostly about how libraries use technology to serve the information needs of their communities.


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