Google Magazine Search

December 10, 2008 at 5:48 pm (1) ()

An interesting development, and one you’ve probably already heard about if you’re following libraryland blogs. In short – Google is adding magazine issues to their book search. This could prove helpful to libraries in several ways, because it gives access to magazines that might not be covered, or that might go back farther into the past than our subscription databases. For example, ProQuest has articles back to the early 1990’s, but not before. So that’s one cool thing. However, the service has a very long way to go – better search functions, for one thing, including a real publication title search and a title index. I did a title search for “Weird Tales” to see if they’d started scanning that gem of American history. I got some magazines, but none of them appeared to be weird tales. So I searched for “weird” in the title. This returned a bunch of issues of Popular Mechanics and Popular Science. See, somewhere on the cover of those magazine issues, an article with the word ‘weird’ had appeared. The same thing happened with a magazine title search for ‘tales.’ So it’s not terribly dynamic, flexible, or robust, yet. And for everyone that thinks it will somehow subvert the use of libraries – first of all, it’ll be a while before Google has enough magazines scanned to compete, and second of all, it’s not access to information that people lack, it’s the ability to locate specific information in the cloud. So even with all the information in the world on Google (their stated goal) librarians will still spend a lot of time helping people dig through it to get at what they want.

I wrote a note to Google with advice about magazine searching, and also suggested they scan the Readers Guide To Periodical Literature and acquire JSTOR, to make life easier for everyone.


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