So Google Wants To Make A Movie With Librarians

I will really be curious to see if any academic librarians show up in Google’s movie. Google is accepting submissions from librarians who have a great Google story, and will then feature selected librarians in a short movie that will be premiered at the ALA conference.

I certainly use Google to find websites when I can’t remember the URL or an article I think I’ve seen somewhere but can’t remember where (and I use other engines for the same things), and I use it regularly to get definitions or to see how certain phrases are used – and I’m a big fan of Google Desktop. But I can’t honestly recall any occasion in recent memory where I used Google to help a student with a serious (or even not so serious) research question. Maybe it’s because most of the research I do is business related and the questions I field are much better answered with library databases or specialized web sites than Google. And when I do library instruction I often try to provide tips for improving Google searches – as well as encouraging students to search more than one engine. So I’m not pro-library/anti-Google by any means. Just the same, this Google movie offer rubs me the wrong way. Do they think librarians are so desperate for attention that we’ll fall all over ourselves to appear in a movie that promotes a search engine rather than library resources? Obviously they do.

So I’m really wondering if academic librarians will try to get into the movie. Maybe there are some academic librarians out there who have more opportunities than I do to get creative with Google. If you want to go for it, don’t let my bad vibes about the Google movie get in your way. Again, I’ve got nothing against Google, but my hope is that librarians everywhere will just completely ignore this movie offer. I think my gut feeling on this one is about having some personal dignity and pride in our craft, and not feeling the need to sell out to a search engine. I mean not one single submission. Google, when it comes to innovation you are near the top of the heap, but I think this is one idea that we can do without.

14 thoughts on “So Google Wants To Make A Movie With Librarians”

  1. I’m a law librarian, and I use Google all the time for serious reference questions. Much of the information requested at the reference desk is public domain–documents from government agencies–not hidden in proprietary databases, but often buried deep inside public websites. For many questions Google is the first place I look, but not the last: it usually gives me the lead I need to find more information.

  2. I’m quite sure you can use Google (and other search engines as well) to answer a reference question or find a lead that helps get to a useful document – as I said I use it to get back to a document I know exists but for which I can’t recall the URL – even though I haven’t found much occasion to use it answer a serious reference question. However, that wasn’t the point of the post. What do you think of librarians gladly making a movie that, to my way of thinking, could be perceived as one big advertisement – or at least a professional endorsement by the library community – for Google? Would you want to be in the movie – and why?

  3. Steven, I’m totally with you. I wouldn’t jump at being in a movie about how well librarians can search LexisNexis, either. This has been the subject of some hot discussion on a regional list. My feeling is that those who think it will promote libraries are wrong. It might promote librarians – look at us! we can do cool things with Google! we’re so smart! – but it doesn’t promote libraries. It promotes a single product, and I find that unethical – and frankly insulting.

    There’s a hilarious take on this over at Sivacracy by an academic librarian – it nails the juvenile tone of the whole thing.

  4. Steven, I totally agree with you. But even though we don’t use Google for serious reference question, don’t you think that for everything else we use Google everyday. And even if academic librarians don’t participate in this movie, I am sure Google will get responses from librarians across the country. As Barbara mentioned it is true that it promotes a single product. But librarians use that product everyday for various reasons. So what is wrong in accepting that?

  5. Steven-
    I have to disagree with you here. Have you used Google book search? I won’t even go into how GBS is not comprehesive, we all know that. But, it can find deep-level content in books NOT owned by your library. Keyword searching of book texts can be a powerful thing. I’ve used it on several occasions and have answered ref questions using it. By the way, I’m Head of Reference at Texas A&M University, a large ARL.

  6. I’m not saying Google products can’t be used to answer a reference question. I’m saying I haven’t found an occasion to do so – and I suggest why that is. Again, the issue is about the movie – and as Barbara says – endorsing Google over other information resources – or at least giving that appearance. Even if every librarian thinks Google is the greatest resource on the planet, does that mean we should make a commercial for them? The reality is that librarians use a host of information resources everyday to answer all types of questions. What does it say for us, as a community, to endorse Google over these other resources – or at least give that impression with a movie that heaps praise on Google to the exclusion of other resources (admittedly their book search may be more unique than other full text book collections – but it isn’t the only one). Will the movie be shown only at ALA and made available only at the Librarian Center? Or, will it be used in other venues? Will it be made available outside the library community? Google isn’t saying. I know their motto is do no evil, but once you appear in their movie and sign the release form I’m sure you have no control over how or where your image will be used. Am I blowing things out of proportion? Maybe. Do I still think it’s a bad idea? Yes. But thanks for your comments. They are appreciated.

  7. I use Google for reference work, but to my mind the problem is endorsing any commercial product – well, that plus the “yo, wanna be in our movie, cuz we’ll make you look hot” thing. I don’t see this so much as a problem just for academic librarians – in fact, it could be argued it’s even more important that public librarians keep their disinterestedness intact. They work for the public, after all, not for Google. Or any other company whose product they use. I happen to work at a private college, but even so I think it would compromise my role at a non-profit institution if I were to get into endorsing products in the hopes it would promote my profession. It just seems sleezy.

  8. Would we feel the same if EBSCO or the NYTimes asked us to appear in a video about how we use their services to do our work? Maybe we would?

  9. And, actually, the terms are available on the Google librariancenter website. Specifically: “4. The Prize: 5 winners will be interviewed by professional videographers and included in a video (the “Video”) to be shown at the Google booth at ALA in June, 2006, as well as on Google’s Librarian Center website and on Google Video. If you are chosen as a winner, you may not transfer or assign the prize to any other person. No substitutions, cash equivalents or redemptions will be made, except that Sponsor reserves the right to substitute the prize with another prize of equal or greater value. Expenses not specifically stated above, together with the reporting and payment of all applicable taxes, fees, and/or surcharges, if any, arising out of, or resulting from, acceptance or use of a prize, are the sole responsibility of the winner of that prize. Sponsor expressly disclaims any responsibility or liability for injury or loss to any person or property relating to the delivery and/or subsequent use of the prizes awarded. Sponsor makes no representations or warranties concerning the appearance, safety, or performance of any prize awarded. Any unclaimed prizes will not be awarded. Restrictions, conditions, and limitations apply. Sponsors and Administrators will not replace any lost or stolen prize items. “

  10. Oops. This doesn’t look good.
    “If you are chosen to be included in the Video, you hereby grant Google the exclusive right to use modify and distribute the Video in any media and for any advertising and promotional purposes without further compensation, consideration, review or consent. ” I’ll stop now.

  11. I have been asked to endorse product – and have declined the offer. I don’t want to appear as if i favor one product over another – and of course I have my preferences – but becoming a promoter for one vendor – it just doesnt’ feel right for me. It might also depend on how it was used I did appear in a Web Junction video where I said some nice things about using it – because I think it’s a worthwhile idea and I knew it would be used to help get other librarians interested. Wel, I’m gong camping tomorrow for the next few days – no google, internet, etc. Thanks Dennis for being involved in the conversation – especially the part about Google being able to use the movie for advertising and promotional purposes. No real surprise there.

  12. I would do it, just as I would go on record to say that I use any number of products. I’m so tired of trying to appear to be “neutral” all the time (our library web sites with databases listed in alphabetical order instead of order of usefulness for example). The reality is our best resource is our knowledge, and the fact that we do decide which resource is better than others! What about taking this opportunity to say why and when we use Google (which has saved me more times than I can count)? By clinging to the ‘neutrality’ and not recognizing what the world already does, we risk continuing the slide towards irrelevancy.

  13. I agree that it’s foolish for librarians to decline to offer professional opinions about the quality of sources because they feel they should be “neutral.” (Where the heck did that come from, anyway?) But that, for me, is not the issue. I’m not a salesperson. I’m not a Google employee. I’d be happy to review any resource, but not expressly for its producer to use in promotional material.

    And the fact people can find a lot of information without my help thanks to Internet search engines doesn’t make me feel I’m sliding towards irrelevancy. Why are we writing our obituary all the time?

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