Google Literacy

One of the current objections to there even being a librarian profession nowadays is that everything is on Google. “Why do I need a librarian to show me anything? I can find what I want with a Google search. Back off, nerd!” And yet, at the same time, there’s a growing number of articles about how important content curation is. The technical definition of content curation, of course, is “I can’t find what I want with Google, can’t somebody make some kind of organizational system or something to efficiently show me where the information is that I need? Help, nerd!”

Normally, when faced with the “all I need is Google” heckling, a librarian has a swiss army knife of web site bookmarks that show how search needs can be more directly addressed with different sites. Heck, this site is all about exposing you to different tools for online legal marketing that you probably wouldn’t have found just by throwing a few keywords in Google. But I’ll even play by the heckler’s rules for a moment. Even if you just limit yourself to Google, do you even know how to use Google to the fullest without a librarian?

You can start by allowing Google to give you a little coaching on what you plan on typing in Google. By using their popularity feature called Google Trends, you can put in a phrase like “reverse mortgage” and get this result. It will show you a timeline of the number of searches made for your query, and offer links on the timeline of important stories related to your query. It will also offer you suggestions on related topics and queries that might offer better Google searches.

You probably knew that there’s an advanced search feature in Google that let’s you search specific sites and limit your searches in various ways. Because, you know, every lawyer wants to really narrow down that search of the rule against perpetuities since you forgot all about it about 3 minutes after finishing law school. But Google actually provides a blog called Inside Search to show you a lot of other things you’ve been missing about Google searches. You can tell Google that you only want a definition, or public data from the Census Bureau, or even recipes prominently displayed in your search results. And there are lot of other articles like this Lifehacker one that offers Google cheat sheets.

You can even make Googles within Google. Using Google’s Custom Search tool, you can round up a bunch of related sites and make a Google search that only looks at those sites for your search results. So you could use a custom search engine, like one on e-books or even something obscure like data visualization to look at materials on making charts from statistics. Apparently it’s possible to make money from these custom search engines too. And there are even search engines that search for custom search engines, like this one!

So the next time someone suggests that all they need to do is put a keyword in Google to replace all librarians, ask them if they can beat back one of Google’s own search challenges, presented by an official “anthropologist of search” at Google. Turns out even Google will show them that it’s not so easy to answer some questions just by using Google. They might even need one of those librarian geeks to help them out one of these days ;)

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