Web-Scale Discovery…the good, the bad, and the ugly

While reading Pete Coco’s guest blog post, “Convenience and its Discontents: Teaching Web-Scale Discovery in the Context of Google,” I found myself shaking my head in agreement. I am not currently a librarian (although, I was just hired as an academic librarian – Yeah!), but I am an adjunct professor teaching Freshman English and writing. As a professor working with freshman, I wholeheartedly agree with his analysis and conclusions. Just because a generation has grown up with Google, doesn’t mean that translates into full knowledge and use of a library’s Discovery system because it “looks” like Google.

Coco states, “Rather than giving in to the temptation to compare discovery to Google as a means of marketing it to students, we should go out of our way to contrast the two.” I completely agree. Students need to understand and learn the differences in order to utilize discovery fully. They are able to see the similarities but the similarities are only ‘skin deep’. If students do not learn to go deeper, to understand the differences, the discovery tool will fail them and they it. Students must learn that “Discovery is not the tool for every task. Controlled vocabularies don’t federate well, and the student asking very specific questions of the literature is better off going straight to the disciplinary index.” These are learned things.

Coco concludes, “We must be careful with the way we describe the scale of discovery to students. In our attempts to market discovery as convenient and easy, we may in fact be selling them on a product that doesn’t exist. In the absence of a clear purpose, convenience is not convenient.” This is the gist of it! Discovery does not do away with instruction or pedagogy – it necessitates it. What a great article to read when I am on the verge of stepping into academic librarianship where I will play a part in student instruction.


4 thoughts on “Web-Scale Discovery…the good, the bad, and the ugly

  1. I hate to play the devil’s advocate here, but I think that it could be argued that each non-intuitive action required by a user could be considered bad UX. Many people today, particularly online, want something that just works. Even if teaching people to use the system is simple, how many people have you lost who tried to use it, failed, and didn’t invest any more of their time in it?

  2. I agree–the academic and library discover tools really are an acquired taste. Just because a seven year old likes to drink apple juice, doesn’t mean they will handle, or like, drinking some ale…but with time and perhaps some instruction they will learn how to use both. There are so many databases and ways of handling the metadata therein that instruction is very helpful to find the best information and then continue to explore on your own.

  3. Pingback: Google Book What? | slismartin

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