Google is Making the Library a Thing of the Past

As a college instructor, I have had the unfortunate opportunity to see the waning of love for libraries. While there was once a time when students (and people in general) had a thirst and zeal for obtaining information in libraries, Google is becoming more and more the chief source for those seeking information. Google can be a valuable source of finding a significant amount of information—there’s no question about that. I am just afraid that this heavy reliance on Google is making us lose some of our hunger for being researchers.

I am sure that we are much more efficient retrievers of information because of the ease of obtaining information Google provides for us. I love to use Google too. I do not, however, over rely on Google when conducting academic research. I still use libraries as primary sources of academic scholarship, and have found electronic databases to be my invaluable friends. The library is a place where I can get away and just enjoy my passion for books and learning with other members of the learning community.

When conducting scholarly research, I would encourage people to use Google as a tool, but it should not be your primary source of locating material to include in your papers. I can always tell when my students have fundamentally relied on Google and other internet sites to aid them in the development of their papers, because the papers always seem to have so few quality references. Google can give you numerous references, but Google is not a better judge of the quality of the references than the assistance you can receive in the library with finding help to assess the quality of your references. The library, especially a college or university library, is going to have less frivolous stuff than you can find on Google. This means you will have less time devoted to resolving whether you have junk or quality material.

While I would never encourage you to do a paper at the last minute, I would have to say that Google can be quite useful when you face this type of situation. You may not have time to go to a library or a library may not be open. In this type of situation, please use Google to help you to find the material you need to complete your paper. For those completing academic papers, “Google Scholar” can be employed to help you to find peer-reviewed publications to include in your work.

Please do not interpret this article as being in opposition to Google for looking for information and for use when composing academic papers. I am just saying that you should not lose faith in the value of a library when seeking information and when composing your papers.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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3 comments

  1. Great topic! I work at a public library and we have definitely seen a change in circulation. The fact is, circulation has gone UP due to the ability to put things on hold online and pick them up. However, the genre of the items are often fiction, CDs, and DVDs. I guess that’s the age we live in… 🙂

  2. Maaaan, I cannot tell you the last time I even touched a library. I think it was 1996 or 98′?!? I don’t think I ever will again. Even when I was completing my B.A. I used the schools online library for research.

    1. @Curtis: Lol! I have to admit that during my undergraduate studies I spent more time using online databases for my research. During my graduate studies, the library has been used as more of a change of place for my reading, writing, and studying, considering I do those things primarily in my office. Online databases have proved to be highly reliable for me during my graduate studies. With InterLibrary loan, there is almost no need for a college student to have to go to the library to pick up a book anymore. The only reason why I advocate for people to continue to go to the library is there are resources, including human beings, who can really help you to find more highly relevant material than we can generally find on our own. Thanks for reading and your response.

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