search engine

Wolfram|Alpha’s Missing Feature: Libraries

John Timmer brings up my two biggest complaints about Wolfram|Alpha. The first is that it’s even harder to identify the source of information than it is in Wikipedia, the other is what happens when searches fail:

A bad Web search typically brings up results that help you refine your search terms; a bad Alpha search returns nothing, and it’s not clear that there’s an easy way to fix that.

Here’s a simple way: have Alpha fall back on library data. One example he offers, “global bioethanol production,” is perfect for both library reference and bibliographic collections.

Google Book Search offers a few promising hits for that query, as does Google Scholar. And if we imagine that search in the context of faceted collections, we’d be able to identify subjects the search phrase is associated with and offer additional access points. Add to that some crowdsourcing opportunities for users to expand the knowledge base by identifying an item or piece of text that answers their question and we’ll have a real competitor to Google.

The Library vs. Search Engine Debate, Redux

A while ago I reported on the Pew Internet Project‘s November 2005 report on increased use of search engines. Here’s what I had to say at the time: On an average day, about 94 million American adults use the internet; 77% will use email, 63% will use a search engine. Among all the online activities […] » about 1000 words

OCLC Report: Libraries vs. Search Engines

So, the report was released Monday, and it’s actually titled Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources (2005), but the part I’m highlighting here is the results of the question that asked users to compare their experiences with search engines against their experiences with libraries. Here’s the quesiton: Satisfaction with the Librarian and the Search Engine […] » about 200 words

Pew Internet Report: Search Engines Gain Ground

According to the recently released Pew Internet report on online activities: On an average day, about 94 million American adults use the internet; 77% will use email, 63% will use a search engine. Among all the online activities tracked, including chatting and IMing, reading blogs or news, banking, and buying, not one of them includes […] » about 100 words

Now Search Lamson Library at

A9, the search engine from, does some pretty interesting things that libraries should be aware of. First, any library considering a metasearch product should look at what can be done for free, and second, libraries should take a look at the OpenSearch technology that drives it. So now, when searching for Harry Potter, you’ll […] » about 200 words

Findability, The Google Economy, and Libraries

Peter Morville, author of Ambient Findability, stirred up the web4lib email list with a message about Authority and Findability. His message is about how services like Wikipedia and Google are changing our global information architecture and the meaning of “authority.” The reaction was quick, and largely critical, but good argument tests our thinking and weeds […] » about 400 words

Full-Text Searching Inside Books

Search Engine Watch did a story about how to use Google and Amazon’s tools to search full-text content inside books.

The gist? when you can get to the tools and where they’ve got content, it does a lot to make books as accessible and open as electronic content.

Sort of related: I’ve spoken of Google Print before and there’s more in the Libraries and Networked Information category.