On the Stanford Integrated Digital Library Project

Googleplex entrance

Courtesy of Scott Beale / Laughing Squid, http://laughingsquid.com/

Did you know that one way of looking at the genesis of Google is it grew from a project to improve library searching?  This is one of the gems I got from reading Little bets

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin didn’t set out to to create one of the fastest-growing startup companies in history; they didn’t even start out seeking to revolutionize the way we search for information on the web.  Their first goal, as collaborators on the Stanford Digital Library Project, was to solve a much smaller problem: how to prioritize library searches online [my hyperlink and my emphasis]

Little bets / Peter Sims, 2011, p4

Sims goes on to show that the breakthrough page rank algorithm grew from using the (familiar to librarians and academics) concept of citation analysis.  Given this I find it ironic that we are still bemoaning the ineffectiveness of many library catalogue search engines.  Take a look at Marshall Breeding’s articles (both articles are also available from EBSCOHost’s Australia New Zealand Reference Centre):

The state of the art in library discovery  2010 / Marshall Breeding IN Computers in libraries,  January 2010


Discovering Harry Potter Barn / Marshall Breeding IN Computers in libaries, March 2011

This harks back to the Principle of least astonishment  – do library catalogue clients get results that are relevant to their search terms? Given that most libraries buy their library management systems, how can we make things better?

Yale card catalog

The obsolete card catalog files at Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University


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