Good Experience vs. Google Experience

There is an ongoing conversation/movement within our professional community that I refer to as “Googlelization“. I define it as the desire to make traditional library databases – and you can throw OPACs in there too – look, act, and feel just like Google. The rationale of the Googlelizers is that today’s information seeker simply wants results, and the less thought it takes to get more results even faster makes it all the better. In other words if academic libraries want to appeal to today’s searchers they’d better be able to give them a Google experience. I’d like to think we can do better.

I got to thinking about this when I came across a thoughtful discussion about what constitutes a good experience. According to the author there are three components that must intertwine to deliver a good experience for an end user. They are: (1) Aesthetics; (2) Meaning; and (3) Efficiency. To keep this post short I won’t describe each; you can read more at the original post. My point is that libraries can bring all three of those components together in delivering a good user experience.

Aesthetics and meaning, points out the author, are long standing elements of philosophical conversations that extend back to ancient Greece. But efficiency is more recent, and he specifically identifies Google as an example of “instant efficiency.” But I think many academic librarians could recall searches for which Google or another search engine provided results that were instant but not efficient, which by definition means a useful and effective practice. Certainly there are times when library databases can be equally frustrating. But in the context of a good experience perhaps there is more to one when it comes to finding information than just having access to search engines and databases. The meaning and aesthetics could come from the context of the search. Are the aesthetics better when it happens in a library environment of serious study or among fellow students? Is there more meaning when one can consult a librarian for assistance or help in interpreting search results?

There must be more to a good experience than just efficiency at all costs. Perhaps we would be well advised to concentrate on aesthetics, meaning, and efficiency in an effort to fashion a good experience for our user communities. I’m sure we must have some philosophers among our ACRLog audience. What do you think?