The Search

needle in a haystack

We’re back in familiar territory for me on this one, though it’s less on my mind at a community college. Our faculty aren’t the ones doing a lot of the publishing, but we certainly benefit from others publishing OA.

One of the main places my mind goes when I consider OA and this ideal future of all OA research, is finding it. Probably because I’m a librarian, right? As I mentioned in my “Are We There Yet?” post, one of the concepts I sometimes try to emphasize to students is that searching for any kind of depth of purpose is a lot more challenging. Google can provide a very good answer or two very quickly. It’s not good at exhaustively searching and providing every relevant thing to you. You start scrolling down or paging through your Google results and pretty quickly you see the pages aren’t all that helpful. Google wants to have fantastic precision, not recall. Library databases are looking for great recall. They are also much more limited in the resources they provide to the user. They provide facets and filters and controlled vocabulary to help you search more powerfully.

My point is that I think the database layer of library resources will still have a purpose even if all of the content itself is OA. My hope would be that it’s a whole lot cheaper. But I think the tools and added functionality will probably still be of value in assisting the finding of the OA things. Unless someone out of the goodness of their heart wants to create a free version that works really well… But I think in this case, actually paying someone is a better idea in terms of reliability. That’s often the snag with open, free content.

In addition, I think publishers would argue that they add value to the published content through editing, marketing, etc. You can take issue with that and disagree, but I think that would be the publisher counterpoint.

As an E-Resources Librarian, another place my mind goes is… what about the usage data? I wouldn’t need it to determine cost effectiveness if the content is all OA, but I would certainly still want to understand the usage of resources by Germanna students in particular. What are their research habits and how can we better serve them? We use the usage information we get from our databases to help inform us in that. I don’t know how we would get that information otherwise, unless we kept a search layer from our vendors at the least.

And that’s the end of my scattered thoughts about OA.

One thought on “The Search

  1. No easy answers to this one, for sure. One of the problems with “fantastic precision” (love that expression) is that students are so accustomed to it that when they can’t find what they want via a simple google search they conclude that it “isn’t there.” My students need to have access to and know how to use library databases. I put down some thoughts about my own concerns about the accessibility piece here:


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