An interesting perspective on the limitations a simple web search comes today from an Emeritus Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He notes that "The contested history of Executive Order 11246 is an important aspect of the history of the modern women's rights movement and of the presidency of Lyndon Johnson," but that a simple search for it yields the revised, not the original, version of the order:
- The Perils of Internet Research: The Case of LBJ and Affirmative Action, By Samuel Walker, History News Network (5-28-12).
A standard Google search for "Executive Order 11246" yields multiple web sites, including those of the U.S. Department of Labor (which enforces the federal contractor provision), the National Archives, and Wikipedia. These sites post the current revised version of E. O. 11246. While it duly notes the many revisions over the years, only historians who are specialists on the subject and some employment law attorneys (but only those interested in history), will realize that it is not the original. Consequently, they will gain no hint of the contested initial history of affirmative action regarding sex discrimination or of LBJ's record on women's rights.
This is not an insignificant issue. Wikipedia is widely used by average Americans as a research tool. College undergraduates use it routinely, as do many graduate students. Only PhD or some MA students who are closely supervised by their faculty are likely to know they are missing some important history. Few people, moreover, are likely to question the National Archives as an authoritative source on American history. Executive Order 11246, finally, is hardly the only document where the original does not immediately appear through a Google search. Try finding the original text of the 1966 Freedom of Information Act, for example.
Experienced government information specialists will not be surprised by this and will recognize the need for sophisticated searching (and careful interpretation of search results) in general.
But this is also an example of the importance of our historical collections. Because government information is a record of the activities and attitudes and knowledge of a government at particular points in time, it retains historical value even when it is "out of date" -- as in the above example. Different versions of laws, old censuses, series of annual reports, early maps, photographs: all these are important historical records which require the same attention and care we devote to the most current information.
Too often, however, I hear librarians focus on "currency" as a value to such an extent that they seem to deprecate the value of historical records. I feel this is the case when library administrators refer to our historical paper collections as "legacy" collections.
The word "legacy," when used as an adjective, comes from computing and means superseded, no longer useful, difficult to use, and in need of replacement. In this way the use of "legacy" as an adjective as a description of our historical collections is both incorrect and demeaning. Those who call our historical collections "legacy collections" are diminishing the value of those collections. I don't know if they do this intentionally or not, but I do know that this use carries an implication that cheapens the value of these collections. That can lead to bad decisions.
If we must use the term "legacy" to describe our historical collections, we should use it as a noun. The noun "legacy" means bequest, heritage, endowment, gift, and birthright. Our historical collections are a legacy from the past to us and to our children and must be treated with respect.
Google introduced a new features to Google Docs, its cloud-based word processor, recently. It allows you to quickly do a google search on a word or phrase that you highlight in a document you are editing and then insert a footnote to a web page you find. Here is what a footnote to an item in FDSys looks like:
1. "Deep Water: The Gulf Oil Disaster And The Future Of Offshore ..." 2011. 22 May. 2012 <http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/GPO-OILCOMMISSION/content-detail.html>
And here is a cite to the same item in WorldCat:
2. "Deep water : the Gulf oil disaster and the future of offshore drilling ..." 2011. 22 May. 2012 <http://www.worldcat.org/title/deep-water-the-gulf-oil-disaster-and-the-future-of-offshore-drilling-report-to-the-president/oclc/696156233>
The Chronicle has an article about the new google feature here:
- Google Docs Research Tool: A Review, By Prof. Hacker, The Chronicle of Higher Education (May 21, 2012).
Incidentally, I chose the Deep Water example because it is highlighted in a GPO press release about GPO teaming with Barnes & Noble to sell federal eBooks.
GPO makes eBooks available in partnership with Google’s eBookstore, OverDrive, Ingram, Zinio, and other online vendors.
That's right: you can buy an ebook or download a PDF from FDsys for free. I'm not sure who is getting the worse deal: the vendors or the public...
The Google Art Project at the White House is pretty darn cool!
Gary's Thursday Roundup: NLRB, Internet Archive, Ancestry.com, U.S. Census, and Much More (17 Items)Submitted by garyprice on Thu, 2011-08-25 15:21.
Hello From DC (I mean Shakeytown, it Was My First Quake) Everyone.
As we prepare for our next event around hear and elsewhere along the east coast I thought it might be a good time to share a mountain of news, new resources, and other goodies with all of you.
The material comes from posts Shirl Kennedy and I made to our INFOdocket.com site. This is just a small amount of what we post seven days a week. Plus, we also provide FullTextReports.com. New reports are listed in the left rail (Thanks Jim and James)
We both hope you find and item or two of interest in the following update. More very soon. (-:
7.“Google Forfeits $500 Million Generated by Online Ads & Prescription Drug Sales by Canadian Online Pharmacies”
The full text of the statement from the USDOJ and FDA
13. Teen Dating Violence: A Literature Review and Annotated Bibliography
From the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress
In a recent court decision the National Security Agency acknowledged working "with a broad range of commercial partners and research associates" but it obtained from the court the right to keep secret documents that may, or may not, show a working relationship with Google.
- NSA spooks win fight to keep secret possible ties to Google, by Mike Doyle, Suits & Sentences legal affairs blog, McClatchy Newspapers (July 13, 2011).
In a decision made public Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon denied a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the curious souls at the Electronic Privacy Information Center. EPIC sought documents relating to NSA's possible relationship with Google following news of an alleged cyber attack by hackers in China and of a subsequent cooperation agreement between Google and NSA.
- EPIC v. NSA: Agency Can "Neither Confirm Nor Deny" Google Ties, EPIC (July 13, 2011).
We've written here before about Google cancelling its newspaper digitization project. Here is a new story with some details about how Google took the most extensive searchable archive of Mexican historical newspapers in the world (The "Paper of Record" archive) and abandoned it.
- How Google Disrespected Mexican History, By Richard J. Salvucci, Miller-McCune (July 10, 2011).
So you want Google (or perhaps any commercial enterprise) to digitize your books and papers and make them available to everyone for all eternity? Profits and losses come and go, but history is forever and not necessarily responsive to market incentives. Be careful what you wish for. Google may give it to you, or, then again, maybe not.
Google Realtime Search Goes Missing, by Vanessa Fox. Search Engine Land (Jul 3, 2011).
As Deal With Twitter Expires, Google Realtime Search Goes Offline, by Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Land (Jul 4, 2011).
Google Doesn't Need Twitter Anymore, So It Just Let Their Deal Expire, by Matt Rosoff, Business Insider (July 4, 2011).
A quick update to a post from Monday that mentioned Google's specialty search tools (including Uncle Sam and GovSearch.Google.com) were offline.
It's now official both of these sites as well as four other specialty search tools that Google offered for at least a decade are NO LONGER AVAILABLE.
Search Engine Land has posted a brief article* (written by your truly) with info and a couple of quotes from Google about the end of the services.
Greetings. On our INFOdocket site we've posted about what appears to be either a glitch (that has gone one since at least last Thursday), the elimination of, or something else because Google's Uncle Sam and USgov.Google.com government search tool now takes users to the Google homepage.
You can find the post here.
Two final points:
1. We have sent an email to Google a few hours ago asking for a comment. If/when we do hear back from them I'll update this post.
2. In our INFOdocket post we point out that Google is free to do as they see fit just as users are free to go elsewhere or come up with new search tactics. However, we would hope that Google would at least let users know before or as they make changes to their web search products and services.
Following up on Google cancelling its newspaper digitization project, here are two more stories:
- Google archive decision 'astonishing' to Ottawa originator, by Vito Pilieci, The Ottawa Citizen (May 24, 2011).
Google’s decision to end support for its newspaper archival services is distressing news for the Ottawa businessman who sold Google the technology to digitize records.
"It’s disappointing, especially when you consider what I thought that this would do," said Bob Huggins, former chief executive officer and co-founder of PaperOfRecord.com, which Google bought in 2008 for an undisclosed sum.
...Huggins suggested that Google should partner with public sector institutions, such as the Library of Congress in the United States, to continue the newspaper digitization effort. The information could be stored by the library for safekeeping and made available online for everyone to read.
"They need to give their head a shake here and realize they have some public responsibility," added Huggins. "For a company that said they wanted to organize all of the world’s data, what happened to that mandate?"
While Google has shifted its focus away from digitizing historical newspapers, the company is trying to work hand-in-hand with newspapers to help them charge for content on their websites.
- Demise of Google Newspaper Archive Shows Need for National Digital Library Policy, by Irvin Muchnick, Beyond Chron, The San Francisco Alternative Daily (May 25, 2011).
...the collapse of the project reinforces the limits of self-appointed public utilities. Apparently, the newspaper archive wasn't getting enough eyeballs to make the project profitable.