Library Resources or Google

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Using Library resources versus Google search

Have you wondered why you are using library resources for assignments when you can Google?

Some of you probably Google rather than searching library databases.

Well, there are reasons why library resources exist. We want to share with you an article by Matthew Hayes, an academic and a researcher. He argues rightly so library search tools and services have a place and a future in the academic world. Below is an extract of his thoughts.


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Using Google

Most students and researchers now begin their discovery process outside the library – on open discovery tools like Google Scholar. A study of patron practices amongst OhioLINK libraries found that 6 per cent of discovery journeys begin on the library’s discovery service, with more than 40 per cent beginning on Google or Google Scholar.

Library search: much more than a search engine

Library search encompasses much more than the library search engine. I’d like to suggest three core areas: Access, Curation, Discovery.


Libraries have a crucial role to play in mediating these initiatives, ensuring questions of user experience, privacy, security and insights are addressed and designing the specific access workflows that best serve the needs of their users.

[Absolutely, library resources are licensed resources. They are proprietary, meaning they are marketed under and protected by a registered trade name. They are not free but exclusive. IMC Librarian view]


Libraries have put increased resources into the development of institutional repositories and other parts of what Dempsey calls ‘the inside-out collection’ (2016) – the output of the university’s own researchers.

[Absolutely, this means you might see your work and your lecturers’ work such as theses, dissertations in the library resources. IMC Librarian view]

Information Literacy

Set alongside the broader diffusion of disinformation in the post-truth era, information literacy amongst students and researchers is more important than ever before. As their patrons continue to favour open discovery tools, it will be important that libraries find ways of taking their curation and information literacy expertise into preferred workflows.

Libraries must continue to support quality discovery

As a doctoral researcher, I began using Google Scholar for my literature review, supported by manually tracking the references in key texts in my field. But as with other early-stage researchers, I soon moved on to library search, and other index-based discovery tools for precision-searching and curated browsing. The article-level metadata such tools use, combined with the qualified nature of the index behind them, are essential when it comes to in-depth research. There is also the greater exposure to your library’s print collection you get in the library’s own discovery service.

That’s the question

But need there be such a stark dividing line between open search tools like Google Scholar and library discovery services like those from EBSCO, ExLibris and OCLC? Can we bridge ease with quality?

Embedding library search

It is possible to chart two stages in the development of the library experience for patrons. The first saw the library as a physical building and curated collection. The second saw the library digitise into a platform of resources and services. Both stages were predicated on the library as a destination, as somewhere a user must go to. Can a new stage emerge from the accelerating forces of the Covid experience? One where the library, and its services such as library search, goes to the user – in their workflow – allowing students and researchers to access library services and resources at the point of need?


Achieving this practically will require new innovations, but it begins with the effort to, in the words of Lisa Hinchliffe, Professor for Information Literacy Services at the University of Illinois, ‘operate in the online environments where users work’ (Linacre, 2020). Achieving this could both accelerate learning and discovery, and the library’s impact.

Author: Matthew Hayes is managing director of Lean Library and a doctoral researcher at University College London


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