Today’s New York Times features an article about a new service Google will announce tomorrow, although you can try it today. It’s called Google News Archive Search, and it aggregates content from both mainstream media sources and traditional library database aggregators. Some of the participants in the venture include The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time, Guardian Unlimited, Factiva, Lexis-Nexis, HighBeam Research and Thomson Gale (AccessMyLibrary.com). Most of these providers were already offering access to their archives as fee-based search engines, but this new twist allows them to be searched in a consolidated fashion through a familiar Google interface. There are also a few other new twists. For example, the output is displayed in mostly reverse chronological order, a departure from Google’s relevance display. For a historical perspective on a search topic, searchers can request a “timeline” search that displays selected results in chronological order. Otherwise searchers can choose to limit their results by date ranges or selected publications. Several searches I tried provided results from individual publications such as the Chicago Tribune or Boston Globe, but others returned results from Thomson Gale’s AccessMyLibrary. The latter does point users to libraries (by zipcode) that subscribe to Gale databases, but it really does little more to facilitate access to the content within the library’s domain. I imagine it won’t be long before academic libraries are integrating their link resolvers into this new archive service as they’ve previously done with Google Scholar.
I can’t say this new wave in Google Migration is all that unexpected. I use the term Google Migration to refer to the migration of traditional library content into a Google search entity (for more detail see American Libraries, October 2005, p.68). Perhaps the best known example of Google Migration is the OCLC Open Worldcat Program that migrates the content of library catalogs into Google and Yahoo. Then we have Google Scholar and Google Book Search, both of which channel users to traditional library content through a Google search interface. Thomson Gale had indicated their intentions some time ago to migrate all the content in AccessMyLibrary into Google. Traditional library aggregator databases see this as a way to open up their vast holdings to the general public in order to sell that content on a pay-per-article basis. Can EBSCO and ProQuest be far behind in joining this latest venture?
From the academic library perspective Google’s latest venture to provide access to all the world’s information does raise the stakes just a bit more in our mission to steer our user communities back to the library’s content – where they can avoid being charged a fee for what they can get for free. I suppose this new wave in Google Migration can be viewed, as can other forms of Google Migration, with a positive spin. If the 21st century librarian’s mantra is “be where the users are” then Google News Archive Search is the next step in putting the library’s traditional content where our users are because the vast majority consult a search engine before a library database. How capable we are in avoiding further marginalization at the hands of Google Migration really depends on our ability to implement technologies that connect our users back into their own academic library. If it ultimately allows them to discover resources they hadn’t previously known about that’s a good thing. It is likely that this type of migration will further blur the lines that divide our own discovery tools and those freely available to our users on the Internet. Perhaps all that will matter in the end is whether we are able to successfully brand our content in ways that allow our users to associate what they access with their own institutional academic library.