Before Google, search engine builders thought that the way to organize the Internet was like an index, or, to use the term that was popular at the time, a directory — A giant list of every link on the Internet. Librarians saw a place on this wave also, as Steve Coffman wrote recently:

Remember those heady early days when we thought we were going to catalog the web? …  Almost every library felt the responsibility to stuff its website with long and often elaborately annotated lists of web resources for just about everything.

As Matthew Reidsma says, the list-making urge is still much in evidence on library websites:

Libraries love links so much that most [library websites] look like spam link farms, designed to trick Google. Every other successful website on the planet gave that up in the late ’90s, but not libraries. We librarians like to see a big list of resources because it makes us seem more relevant.

As Reidsma has discussed in other works, the problem with the prevalence of link lists on library websites is that users ignore them, and don’t find the really important things on the website … or they just go to Google.

Why do users find library lists so unappealing? Neither of the commentators quoted above, nor anyone else that I’ve seen, has written about it, but the obvious answer, I think, may be … Alphabetical Order — Invariably lists of links on library sites are alphabetical — In the days of PageRank, how boring!

The “I’m Feeling Lucky” PageRank Revolution

Before Google, the only rational way to organize a long list of links on the same subject was alphabetical order. It’s almost hard to imagine back to those days, and to realize what a revolution Google’s PageRank was. It seemed like magic that Google gave us automatic lists of links, with the best ones at the top of the list. James Gleick wrote about this recently, in a retrospective look at the Age of Google [boldface added]:

PageRank is one of those ideas that seem obvious after the fact. But the business of Internet search, young as it was, had fallen into some rigid orthodoxies. … People naturally thought of existing technologies for organizing the world’s information, and these were found in encyclopedias and dictionaries. They could see that alphabetical order was about to become less important, but they were slow to appreciate how dynamic and ungraspable their target, the Internet, really was.

With this great new invention of PageRank, people soon came to assume that any list of resources worth looking at would, of course, have the best links at the top of the list. If they encountered an alphabetical list, their eyes would glass over. So, with most long link-lists on library sites being in alphabetic order, is it any wonder that they’re not very popular with users?

So what can libraries do? As Reidsma has been saying recently, we need to look at our websites like our users do, and change them to fit users’ needs — He says from his work with users surveys that this means greatly simplifying library websites. Link lists should be short, with someone’s idea of the “best” links at the top. As I’ve learned with my work on Hardin MD, no matter how long the list of links is, only the top 2-3 will get many clicks.

The emphasis on simplifying our websites, of course, fits very well with the mobile revolution. The small screens of mobile devices beg for small, simple web pages, and trimming our lists is a great place to start.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

The Twitterverse has been abuzz with chatter about Steve Kolowich’s recent article, What students don’t know. This reports on a study of Illinois college libraries showing students ignorance of library resources, and their love of Google — Nothing new, but the report states the issue so clearly that it’s drawn much attention.

In reaction to this, Paige Jaeger has a good article suggesting that we in libraries should not dwell on the problems, but instead work on the solutions — Students are going to use Google — We should live with it,  and go from there:

Teach students to search Google, even if you don’t like it. …. If students are swimming in Google, we have to throw them a life preserver.

Jaeger cites articles that have specific ideas on how to leverage students’ Google proclivities to teach them about library resources. One by Paul Barron especially catches my attention — Teach students how to do the best possible job in Google, and then show them how much better they can do with library resources:

Using Google to Hook Students

Educators know that libraries provide access to more relevant information sources and that there are specialists in libraries who enjoy helping students with their research projects. The challenge is influencing the students to use the resources.

Students’ preference to begin their research with Google provides opportunities for educators to integrate the databases hosted in the school library into their research. After teaching a student to use the advanced search features in Google, educators can show how, with minimal modifications, Google’s advanced search syntaxes are similar to the features provided by the library’s proprietary databases. After teaching students to search using Google’s advanced search options, an effective leading question is to ask the student, “Would you like me to teach you a search method that saves you time, provides more relevant resources, and that will improve the quality of your research and earn you a higher grade?”

This approach works! Lori Donovan, a teacher-librarian at Thomas Dale High School from Chester, Va., noted: “I revised my lesson plan for teaching students how to search the Web and library databases. Students were frustrated using the Web; when we got to Gale and ABC-CLIO, their amazement in the difference of the quality of information was priceless. One student researching working women of the 1930s said, ‘Google is aggravating; I found much more in Student Resource Center.’”

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

As I’ve discussed previously, much of the strangeness of the PubMed Health-NLM-Google affair arises because NLM doesn’t seem to have an appreciation of search engine optimization (SEO), and the value of being ranked in Google.

Another aspect of this misunderstanding that came out during the NLM presentation at the recent MLA annual meeting, is that NLM is frustrated (!) that PubMed Health pages are getting a top ranking in Google because they consider the new resource to be in an uncompleted, “pre-alpha” state. Bafflingly, they apparently didn’t anticipate that Google would find the PMH pages until they were “ready.”

To anyone in the dotcom world, getting a high ranking in Google is invaluable — The Ultimate Goal, The End of the Rainbow. To them, the idea that NLM would not be celebrating (!) a high Google ranking would be hard to fathom.

I realize that government websites like NLM don’t have the nimbleness of dotcom sites, so they have trouble adapting to unexpected happenings. But, still, it’s interesting, I think, to ask how a dotcom site would handle the current PubMed-Google situation …

What would a dotcom do if they had a new site that was under development, not ready to be used by the public, and it suddenly and unexpectedly started getting high rankings in Google? I think if this happened a dotcom would drop everything else and get the site in a finished state as quickly as possible. And while they were working on this, they would inform users about their progress in getting it finished.

NLM’s response to getting a top Google ranking has been very different — From all appearances, they have done nothing different at all because of the high ranking. They are working at a slow pace to implement the new site, on some pages, but they have done nothing to inform users about their progress, and when implementation will be completed.

Beyond NLM – Building Library Discoverability with Google & SEO

My point here is not to be hypercritical of NLM. It’s rather to use NLM as an example of a more general problem in libraries. As I’ve discussed before, I think libraries should be more aware of the effect of SEO and Google on how our users find our sites.

What’s unfortunate about NLM’s reaction to Google’s ranking of PMH is that it almost appears as if they really don’t care whether users find their PMH pages or not — The pages are certainly going to be found and used more if they get a high ranking in Google, so NLM should rejoice, instead of grousing about Google finding them.

So I say the same thing to libraries in general that I say to NLM — We have good stuff! Let’s help our users find it! Taking advantage of Google and the principles of SEO to help us do this doesn’t mean we’re “in it for the money” — It just means we want to make our resources more discoverable for our users!

Related articles:

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

PubMed Health (PMH) was launched early this year by the National Library of Medicine. As discussed in previous articles, NLM has said very little about this new resource, so I and other medical librarians were hoping that they would clear up some of the mystery surrounding it at the Medical Library Association annual meeting in May. In this article, I’ll report on what NLM sources said about PMH at MLA, which, unfortunately, was not very much.

There were two sessions at MLA where NLM had an opportunity to discuss PMH. The first one was the NLM Online Users’ Meeting, at 7 AM on Monday, which was attended by about 50-75 people. NLM staff presenting at this session were Loren Frant, who talked about Medline Plus, and David Gillikin, who talked about other NLM initiatives. Neither one of the presenters mentioned PMH (see the MLA blog for what was discussed). In the question/answer period afterward, I asked Gillikin about PMH. He acknowledged its existence, but said very little else. He said that NLM Deputy Director Betsy Humphries would talk more about it on Tuesday at the NLM Update “plenary” session.

After the NLM Users’ session I talked more to Gillikin, about NLM’s silence regarding the high Google ranking of PMH, and the controversial claim of NLM-Google collusion that has arisen from that. He indicated that the current version that’s available online is essentially a “beta version,” and that eventually PMH will have a strong emphasis on providing comparative effectiveness information for consumers and healthcare personnel. Gillikin expressed frustration that Google had given PMH pages a high ranking when it was not really in a completed state. When I pushed for him to say why NLM had not anticipated this, he said, frustratedly, “Google is a black box” — Indicating that apparently NLM has had no communication with Google about the high PMH rankings in Google searches. For the record — NLM Associate Director Sheldon Kotzin was also present at this session, although he was not a presenter. The only input he had on PMH was to confirm that there would be more information about it from Humphries at the Tuesday session.

So the stage was set for Humphries at the NLM Update on Tuesday. Although attendance at Monday’s early-bird session was small, word had gotten out, helped along by tweets, that Humphries would have more to say. Here’s the account by conference blogger Alison Aldrich on Humphries’ talk at the NLM Update:

Next came the moment many of us have been wondering about for a long time. What would NLM have to say about PubMed Health, this mysterious new site with such high prominence in Google Search results? In truth, they don’t have much to say… yet. We know its purpose is to provide health consumers with better access to systematic reviews and comparative effectiveness research. We also now know that Google released it in pre-alpha form long before NLM was ready for that to happen. [ER: See my comments on this last sentence below.]

Hopes for more information were thoroughly dashed, then — Humphries talked for less than a minute about PMH, repeating what had been said on Monday. Of the high Google ranking, she said it was a surprise for everyone at NLM, but she said nothing about why NLM has been so silent about this, or why they have not had more to say about the nature of PMH. I waited expectantly until the end of her presentation with the many questions I (and no doubt many others) have about this whole affair, but to no avail — Humphries and the other presenters took NO QUESTIONS!

The Pot calls the Kettle a Black Box?

How ironic that Gillikin called Google a Black Box when NLM itself is being so mysterious! Here was the perfect opportunity to explain their actions in the Google affair to a friendly audience, and they said nothing to answer the obvious questions:

  • Why did NLM release PubMed Health before it was ready for public use, in “pre-alpha stage”? The conference blog report says that “Google released it in pre-alpha form,” but it was not Google that “released it,” it was NLM.
  • There is certainly a precedent for Google putting NLM pages at the top of its ranking for health/disease related searches, with Google Health One Box, so why did NLM not think about the possibility of this happening with PubMed Health?
  • And finally, the most basic question (in two parts) — Does NLM care what the world thinks? Do they care that there is a blog article which is getting high rankings in Google that suggests that NLM is conspiring with the CIA? If they do care, why are they not saying something to clarify the situation? …
  • A subset of whether NLM cares — Do they care what MLA people on Twitter think? Twitter was heavily-used at MLA this year — I and several other conference attenders tweeted throughout the meeting about PubMed Health, with no response from NLM. It seems like it would be a good idea for NLM to have someone communicating on Twitter!

Since the events at MLA reported above happened in May, I’ve found that NLM does seem to be making some slow progress in adding comparative effectiveness information to PMH. It’s unclear how much this happened before MLA, and how much since. If it was happening before MLA, it’s surprising that NLM didn’t talk about it. If it has been happening more since MLA, maybe NLM was motivated by the widespread puzzlement about PMH expressed at MLA. Whichever the case may be, NLM still has a long way to go in clearing up the continuing mystery of PubMed Health.

Related articles:

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

I’m reading Steve Rosenbaum’s new book, Curation Nation — He talks interestingly about social media like Twitter as being tools for curation, which he says are often better than Google in helping people find what they’re looking for.

As a prime example of why he thinks curation is the wave of the future and “search is broken (p 252),” he talks about googling his name (steve rosenbaum) in Google Image Search, and getting many false hits, including pictures of women and a pomeranian dog. His use of Google Image Search here rather than the standard googling tool Google Web search is puzzling — I guess he does it to prove his claim that “search is broken” — In Google Web search, though, searching for steve rosenbaum works just fine — All of the top 10 results are for Steve the book author.

So I think Rosenbaum is confused when he asserts that “search is broken” or “search is dead” (see below*) based upon his experience in searching Google Image search. But in bringing pictures into the discussion, he IS on to something important, which goes along with the book’s “curation” theme, and which I’ve hit upon frequently in this blog. As Rosenbaum discusses repeatedly, an important element of “curation” is that it’s done by human beings, as opposed to automated tools like search engines. This very much echoes a major theme of Seeing the Picture — starting with the very first article — which is the idea that pictures require a large amount of human input, on many levels, starting with the process of “curating” them so they can be found.

I’m finding Rosenbaum’s book especially interesting because, in addition to pictures, he also touches on other curatorial themes that I’ve discussed here:

Twitter – As mentioned above, he mentions Twitter prominently as an example of curation, and I’ve written about tweets being superb curatorial tools to focus the eyeballs of the Twitterverse on valuable information nuggets.

Wikipedia – At its tenth anniversary in January, I wrote about Wikipedia in very much the same vein as Rosenbaum, contrasting it as a tool for human curation in contrast to the machine-mind of Google. When I wrote this article, I was surprised to find that Wikipedia is not often discussed as an example of curation, so I was glad to see that Rosenbaum does.

*In Rosenbaum’s talk at TOC 2011, he goes over the same story of googling his name in Google Image search, to show the problems with Search — In the talk he says search is “dead” instead “broken,” as he says in the book.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

I wrote in a previous post about the punning name of “Mac OS X” — which apparently came from the mind of Steve Jobs. I observed that it’s surprising that there has been little commentary on this cute little pun. I guess maybe this sensitized me to see little-noticed puns by other famous geeks …

I came across another “famous geek pun” recently, by newly-named Google CEO and founder Larry Page — PageRank, the algorithm that made Google famous, is named for Larry Page! Like most people, I assumed that it was called that because of its page-ranking purpose. Although this pun is certainly more widely-acknowledged than the Steve Jobs pun — it’s even mentioned in the first sentence of the Wikipedia article on PageRank — it’s still questioned by some.

Is there a pattern here? Do geeks get too little credit for having a wry sense of humor? It certainly seems like these two little examples merit more attention.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

I got several good tips in a recent Web Searching class* I attended — One of the tools I learned about is BlindSearch, which does a comparison search in Google, Bing, and Yahoo. I tried it out in the class, searching for the title words google librarians from a blog article I had just published a few days before (Google & Librarians as Cousins), not  really thinking it was likely that any of the search engines would find it. But much to my surprise, one of them did find it in the first screen — Bing! The article was published on March 29. At the class three days later on April 1, it was number one in Bing. When I’ve checked since then, it’s been number three, as highlighted in the screenshot below.


(Click screenshot for LARGE)

Great job, Bing! This little example, I think, indicates that Bing may be the search engine of choice for time-sensitive subjects that are likely to have recent updates. It makes me wonder if Bing is giving higher precedence to pertinent blog articles than Google and Yahoo. Confirming my experience, I recently noticed a good Google-Bing comparison article showing that for some searches Bing is, indeed, better than Google.

*Super Searcher class, taught by Max Anderson, from the GMR/NNLM office, at a meeting of the Iowa Library Association Health Sciences Subdivision

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

I wrote recently on the kinship of Google and libraries. I got the idea for that especially from a long portrait of Google co-founder and new CEO Larry Page, which brings out several qualities of Google and Page that I think show commonality with libraries and librarians. In that portrait, Farhad Manjoo contrasts the Google/Page style with the Apple/Steve-Jobs style, and says it’s unlikely that Google will “tap its inner Apple” under Page’s leadership. …

That term “Tap its inner Apple” kept bouncing around in my mind — Larry Page may not help Google find its Inner Apple, I think, but how about adding another twist? — Combining the idea of Google-Librarian temperamental connections, from my previous article, with Google Books, which resonates strongly with librarianship, and was actually conceived by Page — How about Larry Page as Google’s Inner Librarian? …

At first this idea of Larry Page as Google’s “inner librarian” seemed almost too playful to suggest. It was only when I was able to substantiate Page’s central role in creating Google Books and his conception of it in library terms that the idea seemed more credible. The general idea of his involvement in the early years of the project is commonly mentioned, but Google co-founder Sergey Brin is the one who’s gotten more attention talking about it. So it took some digging to find details of Page’s role in the creation of Google Books, which did turn up some bits of solid evidence, discussed below.

The first is the story of Page telling Google CEO Eric Schmidt about his idea for Google Books. This is from Ken Auletta’s book on Google, ironically enough, right from Google Books — Surprisingly, as interesting as the story is, especially from a library point-of-view, googling the quote turns up only a handful of fairly obscure places where it’s cited. The telling here is notable for Page’s strong emphasis of the project’s library-librarian connections:

[boldface added] Schmidt remembers the day in 2002 he walked into Page’s office and Page surprised him by showing off a book scanner he had built. It had been inspired by the great library of Alexandria … “‘We’re going to scan all the books in the world,” Page said. For search to be truly comprehensive, he explained, it must include every book ever published. He wanted Google to “understand everything in the world and give it back to you.” Sort of “a super librarian,’” he said.

The second telling of the story is also little-cited, probably because it’s buried in the middle of a recent multi-paged Wired article. Written by master tech storyteller Steven Levy, it’s notable for the clear statement that the project was Page’s idea:

[boldface added] It was Page who dreamed of digitizing the world’s books. Many assumed the task was impossible, but Page refused to accept that. It might be expensive, but of course it was possible. To figure out just how much time it would take, Page and Marissa Mayer jury-rigged a book scanner in his office, coordinating Mayer’s page-turning to a metronome. Then he filled up spreadsheets with calculations … Eventually, he became convinced that the costs and timing were reasonable. What astounded him was that even his spreadsheets didn’t dissolve the skepticism of those with whom he shared his scheme. “I’d run through the numbers with people and they wouldn’t believe them,’” he later said. “So eventually I just did it.” Page was disappointed when critics … launched a series of legal challenges … “Do you really want the whole world not to have access to human knowledge as contained in books?” Page asks. “You’ve just got to think about that from a societal point of view.”

It’s ironic that Page is taking over as Google CEO just after the rejection of the Google Books Settlement. But I suspect the Google Books project will be seen by librarians of the future as a necessary first step in the evolution of a universal digital library — An idea that might still seem impossible if it hadn’t been for Google. In fact, this process of looking back on Google Books as “history” has already started — Harvard Library director (and historian) Robert Darnton, writing in a NY Times op-ed soon after the Settlement rejection, proposes the creation of A Digital Library better than Google’s. He concludes his piece by giving credit to Google for getting the idea started:

Through technological wizardry and sheer audacity, Google has shown how we can transform the intellectual riches of our libraries, books lying inert and underused on shelves. But only a digital public library will provide readers with what they require to face the challenges of the 21st century.

And it might not have happened if Larry Page hadn’t had the audacious dream of digitizing the world’s books and scanned the first one in his office with Marissa Mayer.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has been in bad repute recently, with Google’s SEO spamming problems in the news. Actually SEO has never been given much respect in the library world, and this is unfortunate because on a basic level SEO is closely related to the library-centric concept of discoverability — Making it easy for users to find good things on your website.

I’ve been thinking for some time that librarians’ apparent lack of interest in SEO was surprising. But recently I’ve been realizing that my perceptions are colored by my experience in crafting Hardin MD pages to be found by Google, beginning about 2001, before most anyone had heard of “SEO.”

I can understand why SEO has bad connotations for library people who know it only as a bag of tricks used by the dotcom-Adwords world to trick Google into giving a high ranking to their clients’ pages. But I hope the examples of my pre-SEO-Adwords experience that I’ll present here will show why I think optimizing pages so they can be found in Google is very much in the library tradition of bringing together the users and the pages.

Even in pre-Google days, standard wisdom about getting pages found by search engines emphasized the importance of a strong page title that gives a concise description of the page’s contents (advice that still holds true). Much of my early work on Hardin MD that I now think of as using SEO techniques centered on this importance of the title. I was an early booster of Google, so I noticed soon after it was launched, in 2000, that many of the pages in Hardin MD were getting high rankings in searches for title words of its pages. I also noticed that most of the pages that were highly ranked got more traffic. But not all of them. Why was this, I wondered? Finally,  with the help of WordTracker (this was long before Google Analytics), I figured out that a high Google ranking goes only halfway — The other half of the high-traffic equation is people searching the term that gets the ranking. Getting a high ranking for a term that no one is searching is useless, like providing a supply of something for which there’s no demand! This simple, basic supply and demand principle is still at the heart of SEO.

The case that opened my eyes about the supply and demand principle was a Hardin MD page with the title “Respiration Medicine” — It got high rankings in Google searches but very little traffic. With WordTracker, I saw the reason why — Hardly anyone was searching for “respiration medicine” — So I used WordTracker to determine the equivalent terms that people WERE searching for, and when I put those words in the title (which is now Respiratory System & Lung Diseases), the traffic increased.

Having discovered the value of using title words that people were searching for, I adjusted Hardin MD pages accordingly. This often meant changing from medical specialty terms to terms that are more easily-understood and widely-used by the public — Ophthalmology was changed to Eye Diseases, Cardiology became Heart Disease … Pediatrics >> Childrens Diseases, Otolaryngology >> Ear, Nose, Throat.

After learning the value of choosing the best words to draw traffic, I applied this optimization lesson to creating the tags that are used at the bottom of Hardin MD pages. The same technique also showed that “pictures” should be used instead of “images” for Hardin MD pages relating to pictures.

I find basic SEO principles especially interesting from a library point-of-view because they have similarities with some of the long-standing principles of librarianship. I’ve written about  tagging in Hardin MD that hearkens back to the subject headings used on library catalog cards. And, having had a bit of experience as a library cataloger, I see a similar parallel between the web page title, that I’ve discussed in this article, with the title-page of a book, that was established as the basis for cataloging books several hundred years ago — Principles of information management endure!

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

In recent interviews about his new book The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry), I’ve been struck by Siva Vaidhyanathan’s deep ambivalence about Google — How profoundly he realizes, even with all his doubts about its motives, how much Google has become indispensable, for himself, for the world, and for librarians. I discussed this in a previous article, based on an interview with Vaidhyanathan in Publishers Weekly.

I recently came across another interview of Vaidhyanathan in Inside Higher Ed, where his conflicted Google-sense comes out maybe even more.  In the introduction, the author/interviewer, Steve Kolowich, I think does a good job of catching this sense:

As is often the case with cousins, the genetic differences between higher education and Google are more striking than their similarities. Beneath the interdependence and shared hereditary traits, tensions creep.

So, yes, the emphasis here is on “genetic differences” and “tensions.” But note the underlying context of these differences and tensions — That Google and academia are interdependent and closely related (“cousins” with “shared hereditary traits”). I want to repeat that the quote is not directly from Vaidhyanathan. But, as I said, I think it’s a good representation of his mixed views that come out in the interview.

Taking off from the idea of Google and academia being in a “cousin relationship,” in this article I’ll transfer the “cousin” idea from academia in general, more specifically to libraries. There are several things that bring this idea to mind — For one thing, Vaidhyanathan in the interview does make one notable mention of a library-Google connection, suggesting that colleges should consider hiring a librarian to be “Chief Google Officer,” to help faculty keep up with the stream of new Google tools. I’ll discuss a couple of other Google-Library connections in the conclusion, but the immediate thing that brought the idea to mind was reading an article on Larry Page, who will become the Google CEO on April 4, just after reading the Vaidhyanathan Inside Higher Ed interview.

7 Ways Larry Page is defining Google’s future, by Farhad Manjoo, is a long and penetrating portrait. As the title says, it does indeed center on Page. But with him being a Google co-founder, observations about the man and the company naturally intertwine. When I came across this article soon after reading the Vaidhyanathan Inside Higher Ed interview, the affinity between Google and libraries seemed natural.

The article is worth a read for many insightful passages, but here I’ll be looking at the parts of it that especially suggest to me the Google-Librarian relationship, mostly in a section called “Talk is Cheap” — The Google character discussed here, that I think fits librarians well also, is an understated modesty — Feeling uncomfortable shouting to the admiring bog about how great they (we) are:

Persuasion offends Google’s — and Page’s — meritocratic beliefs. The company became the biggest search engine in the world because it built a better product, not because it created better TV ads than Yahoo.

Google’s attitude (and librarians’ I think) is “We’ve got the good stuff, so why do we need to advertise it”:

Google’s build-it-and-they-will-come naïveté seems almost cute in the age of Apple. Many of Google’s advances go unnoticed by the public because nobody hears about them.

(An interesting aside in this quote is that Vaidhyanathan, in the Inside Higher Ed interview above suggests, as mentioned above, that librarians might be just the ones to help Google’s advances get noticed on college campuses.)

Manjoo mentions that Google PageRank is named for Larry Page, which brings up another little Page-Google-Library connection — As I’ve blogged before, PageRank has its origins in the mind of librarian Eugene Garfield, dubbed “Grandfather of Google” in my article — So, if Google’s grandfather is a librarian, doesn’t that make all of us librarians at least cousins? ;-)

On a personal level, Manjoo’s description of Page sounds like the stereotypical librarian: “reserved, unabashedly geeky, and said to be introverted.” He contrasts Page’s Google with Apple and Steve Jobs (who would certainly never be mistaken for a librarian), suggesting that the Page style may be a good fit:

With its new CEO an introvert, perhaps Google will never tap its inner Apple. But maybe, in the bigger picture, that’s a trade-off worth making. According to some surprising forthcoming research … introverts can be more successful leaders – particularly in dynamic, uncertain, and fast-changing environments like the tech industry.

The comments here on Google and Apple segue into another Google-Library commonality that I see, which is that they both stand on the side of the Open Web — Google certainly differs from libraries in being a commercial company that needs to make money. But for its basic function — Search — to work, it depends upon the Web being an open, free environment, as libraries strive to be for their users. Apple (and Facebook), on the other hand, occupies a more closed, “walled garden” environment, with tightly controlled access to information. So, for the good of the open model of the Web and libraries, it will be a good thing if Google under Larry Page does indeed not “tap its inner Apple.”

In conclusion, circling back to an apt Google-Library remark by Vaidhyanathan — In the “many-virtues-of-Google” part of the Inside Higher Ed interview above, he says “Google made the Web usable” — A user-friendly place where people can actually find what they’re looking for — Just like libraries do for their users.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey