Google is putting an arm around some of the world's great libraries and ushering their contents onto the Internet. Stanford, Harvard and Oxford universities; the University of...

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Google is putting an arm around some of the world’s great libraries and ushering their contents onto the Internet.

Stanford, Harvard and Oxford universities; the University of Michigan; and the New York Public Library are making part or all of their contents available. They will be scanned and uploaded to the search engine’s online library.
Librarians dismiss speculation that the partnership might not bode well for libraries because people will skip the trip to their neighborhood branch if they can access great books from the comfort of their home computer. Many are thrilled with the prospect because a library’s franchise is not the building but the selection and access to information.

“It’s infusing libraries into the information infrastructure of our society,” enthuses Michael Eisenberg, dean of the University of Washington Information School.

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Picture information seekers Googling key words and finding what they want in a copyrighted text. They can read the excerpt that matches their search but, to get the whole book, they’ll have to buy it or … go to the library. If the books are not protected by copyright, they can see the whole text, but modern copyrights last at least 75 years.

Anyone who has used Google knows finding exactly what you need is growing harder because of increasing “noise” from a profusion of information now available online. Wildly disparate and irrelevant matches to two or three key words obscure the bull’s-eye.

That’s when you can call on … your friendly librarian.

Trained in information gathering — and blarney detection — librarians will continue to help patrons separate the credible from the ridiculous.

The Internet has been around for years, but the American Library Association reports library use continues to be strong and is even increasing. Voters in King County and the rest of the state have voted to invest in their libraries. Seattle’s new central library and its dynamic décor and high-tech are a testament to a bright future of libraries — what Eisenberg refers to as a “golden age of libraries.”

Google’s partnership with libraries is symbiotic. Expect to see more of the same.