Last week, my good virtual friend Ernie the Attorney tried Google Answers:
“Google Answers is pretty cool. For a minimum of $2 you can post a question on just about any topic and get a quick response. I just came back from Paris and was wondering if the French word for heart ('couer') had any relation to the origins of the word 'court' as used in the legal sense. Sure, I could go try to find the Oxford English Dictionary, but I don't have time. So I posted the question and got this answer (note the subsequent comment by another person who adds to the discussion with more useful information). And from the answers I learned about the Online Etymological Dictionary. It's not the OED, but it's a handy tool nevertheless.
And learning all of this cost me only $2.50. Not bad….”
Now, I don't blame Ernie for trying GA because it's one click from typing “google” into your address toolbar. I did still call him on it in an email and noted that he could have gotten an answer for free from his local library. Here's his response:
“Well I tried GA because I wanted to see what sort of result I would get for the bare minimum. I love libraries but I don't know that my local one does that (I guess they do), and I don't know their email address. Google OTH is on my browser toolbar. In the world of the internet visibility and convenience favor Google.”
Again, I don't fault Ernie at all for this, but if a smart and net-savvy guy like Ernie isn't aware of the services his local library offers, how are we going to reach the rest of the web surfers out there? An od question still seeking answers.
Ernie's experience has prompted me to try and get my act together enough to submit a LSTA grant application to create a search toolbar for a library's catalog, with a link to its virtual reference service if one is available (or a statewide one like My Web Librarian), and Jon Udell's LibraryLookup bookmarklet, all created through a wizard that any library could use to make a customized download for its patrons. Ideally, I'll use a certain ISBN lookup service if a certain organization takes it live in the near future, and I definitely want to involve Art Rhyno in all of this. I wonder if the Google folks would be interested in collaborating…?
Hopefully Pamela isn't having heart palpitations from reading this! [The Shifted Librarian]