Librarians Want to Out-Google Google With a Better Search Engine

Have you ever wished for a personal reference librarian, an information guru to point you to the most reliable sites whenever you search the Web? A new search-engine project aims to simulate something like that. The trick? Weighting search results so that librarians’ picks rise to the top.

Called Reference Extract, the project is being developed by the Online Computer Library Center and the information schools of Syracuse University and the University of Washington. OCLC is an international cooperative that shares resources among more than 69,000 libraries in 112 countries and territories. A $100,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is covering planning costs.

According to the project proposal, the search engine “will be built for maximum credibility by relying on the expertise and credibility judgments of librarians from around the globe.”

Source: Wired Campus/Chronicle of Higher Education

Reading my favorite blog, ResourceShelf, I came across this little entry.  All I can say is that it is about time librarians stepped up to the plate concerning search engines.  Google is wonderful and I love it, but sometimes we all long for better results, not just millions of results.  Of course this project brings up a whole host of issues, is a librarian-run search engine just federated searching with lipstick?  Also, how do you judge the credibility of an individual librarian? Who chooses these librarians?  Though I am inclined to go with everything OCLC wants to give me, sentences like “Users will enter a search term and get results weighted towards sites most often referred to by librarians at institutions such as the Library of Congress, the University of Washington, the State of Maryland, and over 1,400 libraries worldwide.” make me a little nervous.  Is this an effort to improve the Internet search environment or a desperate ploy to make libraries more relevant? Now you can do exactly as we do. I’m not saying that libraries are not relevant, but it seems a little peculiar to make all searching point only to websites used by libraries. Sometimes librarians are the last to know about hot new sources of information. I’ve been guilty of this myself a few times. I’m sure time will tell how this project works, and I will be happy to be one of the first to try it out.