Monday, September 11, 2006

Mission and Mountains

The upcoming "Mission in the Mountains: Believe and Achieve" is the Western MLA Chapters 2006 Annual Meeting, which will be hosted by the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the MLA in Seattle. Whereas in the past, the annual meetings had only the PNCMLA, this year promises to be the most exciting event to date since all four Western chapters of the MLA will be meeting together, including Hawaii-Pacific Chapter (HPCMLA); the Medical Library Group of Southern California & Arizona (MLGSCA); and the Northern California & Nevada Medical Library Group (NCNMLG) at a meeting hosted by the Pacific Northwest Chapter (PNCMLA) of the Medical Library Association.

Events will include presentation from speakers, continuing education sessions, roundtable luncheons, and poster sessions. (It's not too late. There's still time for signing up!)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Search Continues

I recently encountered one of the toughest questions to date. This one nearly blew my mind out when I first skimmed it over. Where to start? How to start? What is it? (And, what have I gotten myself into?)

We are attempting to build a scale out of our
Attitudes and Expectancy data. A starting reference point is Brown, Christiansen and Goldman 1987 – Journal of Studies on Alcohol Sept. 48(5), 483-491.

If these references fully explain the methodology for the development of the Alcohol Expectancy questionnaire, you can move on to…

Other attempts at building an expectancy profile exist around the Iceberg Profile – from the Profile of Mood States questionnaire.

You can also look at scale development in Item Response Theory information…

We are looking for scales that have been developed in the exact same way as we hope to, and/or the Alcohol Expectancy Questionnaire was developed.

After a few gin & tonics, and some LIS training and search experience under my belt, I thought it would be interesting to take this on as an information professional at the ref desk. Here is what I did: (1) Find the article. Read it. Analyze it. I used PubMed, which has a "single citation match" feature which allows us to enter a the author's name, volume, issue, and page number to find the article, if a title is not provided. And wouldn't you know it, PubMed indeed came up with the title I needed, plus an abstract!

(2) I then moved onto the the UBC Library Subject Guides. The challenge is that the multi-disciplinary nature of the topic at hand. My first inclination is to start off in Psychology. Yet, other life sciences topics are equally pertinent (i.e. nursing and social work). Even within medicine, different disciplines are relevant.

(3) Thus, starting with PsychInfo, I eventually cover what I feel are the other main indexes & databases: CINAHL, Embase, Medline, and Web of Science. I also cover the free online databases: Google Scholar, SCIRUS, and Tripdatabase. Interestingly, Academic Search Premiere, a multidisciplinary database proved to be one of the most useful as numerous useful hits came up.

(4) With the search tools mapped out, the next step is to come up with some search terms. It took quite some experimentation, using many different combinations of terms. But in the end, I used (1) "alcohol expectancy questionnaire" and "scale development". (2) "Iceberg profile"; (3) "profile of mood states questionnaire" and "scale development"; (4) "Item response theory" and "scale development". Some interesting results did come up. Any ideas on how to improve upon this fairly rag-tag approach?

Allan's Library Blog 2.0

And we're off! Change for this blog has forever been at the back of my mind throughout the latter stages of the summer; I've been planning how to establish a new look for quite a while. (Not to say that the previous design wasn't adequate -- it was time for a change). Here's the push that paved the way for this to be done: LIBR 534 - Health Information Sources and Services, a course which I am taking at the moment. It was exactly the spark that was necessary for igniting this change to hopefully a bigger and better, more informative web log. Hence, my upcoming blog entries will have a more health information-related theme.

For my first posting, I'd like to go historical and introduce Andreas Vesalius, who was an anatomist and author of one of the most influential books on human anatomy, De Humani Corporis Fabrica (translated, it is "On the Workings of the Human Body"). This expensive piece of work can be found at UBC's Woodward Biomedical Library's Charles Woodward Memorial Room.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

It's here! (Finally)

Something looks different with Google Scholar. I had a quizzical frown when I made a search on Google Scholar. Along with the usual result hits was a "related articles" feature which look surprisingly similar to PubMed's. While its citation analysis feature matched Web of Science's, Google Scholar had always lacked a function which allows searchers to find related articles.

But it's here now! And it's here to stay! The searching just got a little easier, and much more comprehensive. To read more, you go to Google's Blog for further analysis.

And if you look closely, Google's blog has linked this posting. Amazingly, it only took a few hours for them to crawl it, too.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Google Scholar for the Humanities and Social Sciences

It's training week as a Graduate Academic Assistant at the Humanities and Social Sciences Division at UBC's Koerner Library. My interviewers at HSS weren't kidding when they asked me if I was prepared for boot camp during the last week of August. They were smiling when they said it, and I naively assumed they were facetious. How wrong I was!

The training has been wonderful though; it's enough to last me for the next few jobs. While I've been introduced to the wide array of areas and subjects of HSS librarianship, including maps & atlas, government publications, journals and microforms, and even numeric data files, nothing could prepare me for the reference desk training, which has been gruelling to say the least (but very educational).

One very special tool that I had taken away with me from my library and research experience at the Biomedical Branch Library at VGH, Hamber Library at the Children's and Women's Health Centre, as well as the Centre of Applied Research for Mental Health and Addictions has been my experience working with PubMed and Google Scholar.

First, Google Scholar. One handy little skill that I've picked up is finding articles which have incomplete citations. By simply typing in part of the title (with quotations around it), chances are that the article or abstract will be available. And from a campus networked computer, the link might even have full-article access via e-link. Prior to Google Scholar, this was mainly possible only through Web of Science, which was limited to the Sciences. However, Google Scholar has opened the door (if only ajar) for the humanities and social sciences.

Second, PubMed. To date, there is still no tool in the humanities and social sciences which can compare to the amazing usefulness of PubMed's ability to search for incomplete citations. At GAA training, we're taught to use a variety of methods, from going to Subject Guides to consulting Wikipedia when searching for articles with incomplete or incorrect citations. However, in the health sciences, one can simply enter the author and page number or year of publication, and voila: the article can be retrieved quite easily, and often with links to similar articles. As I am perfecting the art of searching, I keep hearkening back to PubMed and wonder, wouldn't it be more effective if we also do the same for other subject areas? With so many database vendors (Ebsco, Wilson, Lexis Nexis) all in dire competition with each other, I doubt that there will be a day when one database will do it all. Or am I wrong?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Demise of LIS?

The recent announcement of the dissolution of the School of Informatics at the University of Buffalo is another example of the marginalization of the profession and discipline of Library and Information Science. Its abandonment isn't the first, nor will it be the last.

Why are library schools still being closed down even though the need for information specialists continue to rise? Is it the stale image of the librarian? Is it the measly wages? Regardless of the reasons, academia seem to enjoy pushing LIS programs around. (Michael Lorenzen's "Education Schools and Library Schools: A Comparison of Their Perceptions by Academia" offers a fascinating analysis). In the ugly case of the LIS program at Buffalo, it was first the merger with the Department of Communications in 2001, then now, the arbitrary insertion into the Faculty of Education. It's gotten so bad that the library school barely passed ALA accreditation (it's been given a "conditional" status).

When will the madness stop? It's time for information professionals to stand up and do something.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Good to Great

If there's but one business book you ever read in your life, Good To Great should be on the shortlist. Jim Collins, a former Stanford Graduate School of Business professor and his research team discovered that there are seven similarities that all successful organizations encompass. I highly recommend this book because its points are relevant to not only for profit businesses, but also libraries and similar organizations. Here are the books main findings:

(1) First "Who", Then "What" - Hire the right people, then formulate a plan. It sounds strange, but based on his research of American companies, Collins unveils the fact that all the successful ones are run by Level 5 Leaders, humble individuals who put their organizations before themselves, who would do anything and everything to achieve success for their company, not for themselves. Although they are often shy and humble, they possess steel determination to get things done. Such people will recruit similar individuals; moreover, once the team is created, the leader will set up their successors for even greater success in the next generation.

(2) Confront the Brutal Facts (Yet Never Lost Faith) - Success is not achieved in one day. All successful companies were built over a long stretch, day by day, bit by bit. Using the Stockdale Paradox an analogy, companies that drop out are those who are most optimistic, who often base their strategies on lofty goals within shortest timeframe possible. The successful ones don't use a clock to time progress; they use patience and faith, never knowing when they'll achieve success, but only that it will happen eventually.

(3) The Hedgehog Concept - When the right and patient people are on board, only then can a plan be formulated. Taking Isaiah Berlin's analogy of the hedgehog and the fox, in which the "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing," Collins argues that great companies have one idea and sticks by it no matter what, whereas mediocre organizations are all over the map and changes directions on a dime.

(4) A Culture of Discipline - When there is discipline, hierarchy is no longer needed. With disciplined thought, the same goes for bureaucracy. Hence, the best companies are those with employees who are hardworking, respectful, and ultimately enjoy what they are doing.

(5) Technology Accelerators - Great companies think differently about the role of technology. They never use it ignite transformation; rather, they apply technology to forward their hedgehog concept, the big overall plan.

(6) The Flywheel and the Doom Loop - Success cannot occur like a revolution; there is never a "defining" miracle moment. Instead, it happens in small increments (like a wheel), turn upon turn, and building momentum slowly and steadily.

(7) Built to Last - Success and greatness are not defined by money. Instead, the goal is intrinsic excellence, simply creating something so that it can endure and be meaningful at the same time . Hence, I find the book intriguing because it is not only limited to businesses. It can be applied to any type of organization. It's worth a read, even if one is not looking to build a corporate dynasty.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Informationist of the 21st Century

Things are coming together. And a session for UBC Pharmacy residents titled, Search skills for UBC pharmacy residents:Appraised tools, PubMed and even Google provided the perfect capstone. What I had originally anticipated as a teaching session turned out to be much more than I had expected, for the 2.5 long session gave me greater insight into the role of the information professional within the entire rubric of the field of health science and medicine.

Things finally make sense now. I must say I disagree with Pharmacists and Reference Librarians, a blog entry that had confounded me when I first encountered it a while back ago. It argues that the reference librarian is not far off from the pharmacist, for both have lost their relevance - the librarian to search engines while the pharmacist to the retail drug companies.

But that is a gross overstatement. If anything, working in two different hospital libraries as well as a health science research centre has given me the knowledge, experience, and skills to confidently say that the information professional plays a huge role. First, a project at CARMHA on primary care, revealed that pharmacists are on the often on the "front lines" of healthcare, for they are often the first to be consulted by patients with medical inquiries. Pharmacists are much more than mere pill counters. And second, introducing an academic to Google Scholar proved to be not only a humbling experience, but also a reminder of how far off we are to being a truly "information society."

With evidence-based medicine (EBM) ever so important in the health professions, pharmacists are needed and expected to have solid information searching and retrieval skills. This is where the librarian/information professional comes in. We not only find information and teach others (such as pharmacists) information literacy, but we also have a mandate to keep up to date with new findings and techniques on such new technologies. Hence, how can one not vehemently rebuke that pharmacy is "just a bit further along the road to annihilation than librarianship is"? It's perhaps appropriate for the informationist stand up and take a bow.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

If You Build It, They Will Come

What makes a “good” post-secondary institutional library? Is it the collections? The atmosphere? Or the photocopiers? Unfortunately, students rarely (usually never) visit libraries to attend a teaching session by a particular librarian as they would for a well-published academic professor. Frade and Washburn’s recent article, The University Library:
The Center of a University Education?
studies the recent trends of how the library is being used by its patrons.

Not surprisingly, numbers are down: there are simply less people walking through the gates. The survey reveals that two core library services, instruction and reference, were ranked very low in terms of patron’s importance. Rather, the study found that patrons came to the library for study, using the internet and computer labs, copy machines, courtesy phones, and signing out books.

In the second part of the research, the study found that two services increased the usage of the library: (1) extended hours; and (2) the implementation of an Information Commons. Interestingly, usage statistics increased during the extended hours, particularly in the area of the IC’s, where there are multimedia computer workstations and plenty of study space are located.

The study doesn’t surprise me much. The library will always be the core of the academic institution. Perhaps times have changed. Although reference and instruction may not be as highly regarded as in the past, that doesn’t render the library and the librarian as ineffective. Far from it, the library will forever be a place where learning and quiet study takes place. As many institutions are advocating cutting back hours to keep costs intact, the library seems the most convenient scapegoat, and hours are particularly the easiest to lop since apparently the numbers are down.

But are they? As this study shows, perhaps more emphasis needs to be placed on tracking when patrons are entering the gates. Unlike bookstores, which keeps statistics on hourly gate counts, most libraries do not (not even the big ones). Just cutting back the hours without careful consultation is clearly a costly mistake, for both the patron and the library itself.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Future Library or Traditionalist Paranoia?

Jeannette Woodward's Creating the Customer-Driven Library: Building on the Bookstore Model offers fascinating insights into the emerging bookstore-concept library. Woodward argues that, for the library to not only survive, but thrive, it must adapt to the retail bookstore model of tailoring services and products to the tastes of the patron. The Richmond Public Library has adopted this philosophy almost to the tee. However, what makes it unique also makes it controversial. Here's why:

(1) Customers service - The RPL prefers "customer" over "patrons." It's all semantics, but behind this innocuous phrase is a pure concept of pleasing the person who steps through the gates. In a way, is not every library's mandate essentially the same, particularly for "public" libraries?

(2) Merchandise - Calling books "products" seems weird, but referring to them as "merchandise" might be ludicrous for some. Put it any way you like, a duck is a duck. Quack, quack. Nonetheless, language does make a difference in the way human cognition operates. By focusing on promoting the items in the library, it does highlight the importance of what is at stake. Is it a bad thing to "sell" what you have?

(3) Self-service checkouts - 95% of the circulation is done by self-service automation. Even holds are self-service. Understandably, traditionalists are upset that such a trend will ultimately displace the library staff, namely the paraprofessional and support staff. The RPL disagrees. It believes that such a system frees up staff to do other customer-service tasks.

(4) "Walking the floor" - In adopting this retail concept, the customer will always be served and the products continually replenished. Staff members are to proactively walk around the stacks and offer assistance to those in need. However, at the RPL, this is the case for certain sections, namely the Popular Titles section, where it is an amazingly dynamic area of the building.

(5) Automated scheduling - Democracy or pseudo-outsourcing? Call it what you will, by allowing auxiliary staff to pick and choose their own schedules, the RPL allows ultimate flexibility. But why not just hire more full-time staff instead of piecemeal? By doing so, the RPL argues that it maximizes on the full potential of its open hours (it has the longest hours of any public library system in North America). But does it to save in other areas?

(6) Themes - To a certain extent, this is not new. However, RPL takes it to another level, and offers new themes regularly, such as "Asian Reads" or "Biography Lovers." In such themed areas, books are picked off the shelves and placed together.

(7) Outsourcing of cataloguing - RPL doesn't create its own catalogues. Nor does it even copy-catalogue. Everything is done by contract. Does it work? Well, it does free up the essential revenue for other areas, such as the latest DVD's and more newer titles. In the end, the question is, does the customer/patron benefit?

(8) Reference - The traditional reference desk, where the librarian snuggly sits for hours on end, quietly working away on the computer is replaced by Information kiosks.

(9) Signage - Not unlike bookstores, RPL's sign are sharp and attractive. The signs say it all. "Kids Place" replaces the traditional Children's section. Is it a sellout to the bookstore? Or are we simply using a good, simple idea and applying it to the library?

(10) Coffee machines - Traditionalists cringe at the thought of drinking in the library. However, RPL promotes it by having machines right inside. Although somewhat teleological, Woodward argues that since patrons are going to drink/eat at home with the books, we should perhaps be at peace with the inevitable.

So far, RPL has been very successful. In my opinion, location is everything. Gate counts are one of the highest in Canada. Yet, what works in Richmond might not work in Abbotsford or Victoria. The demographics in Richmond make sense: young, hip, urban, and middle class. The sleekness of the RPL suits such a chic clientele. But will such a model last? Time will tell.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Email: Beware. . . or at least be careful

"Why then, can one desire too much of a good thing," says Rosalind in As You Like It. How true Shakespeare's words still ring! Although information professionals are relied upon to find and retrieve timely and accurate information, they are ironically at risk of running into occupational hazards, personally and professionally.

Why do you ask? Besides addiction (which deserves a future blog posting upon itself), email messages can easily be misinterpreted and written out of context. Tom Van Vleck's "The Risks of Electronic Communication" offers an excellent "how to" guide on how to properly use email. I've summarized his salient points.

(1) Jokes. What appears lightheartedly humourous may offend others. People are more offended by offensive jokes through emails than through in-person commentaries.

(2) Anger. Emotions run high online. Without reading them carefully, emotional messages can trigger strong emotions from the recipient, often taken out of context (by both sides). Hence, the solution? Pick up the phone!

(3) Sarcasm and Irony. Some people read hastily; others just take words literally and don't understand that you really meant the opposite of what you wrote. As Van Vleck warns, even a smiley or "just kidding" won't always work.

(4) Criticism. Don't do it online, even if temptations run high. Even criticism of trivial matters can be construed out of context. People are touchy; if they feel attacked, they attack back.

(5) Late Night. I like this one the most: messages composed late at night can cause serious damage. As Van Vleck points out, some mysterious influence of the brain gets triggered after a certain hour, 9PM or so, which makes us think we're typing in sensible messages, when in fact they are subject to severe misunderstanding. Hence, the best solution is to save it in a file and look at it tomorrow morning. (Guilty as charged!)

(6) Personal Remarks. Making derogatory remarks about others is a bad idea. Doing it behind their back is worse. Doing it in public is deadly. Electronic messages are the last place for any kind of uncomplimentary remark. Sometimes, that FWD can turn into a REPLY, and hence, the nasty email remark gets sent to the very person you don't want reading it. (Guilty again!)

Hence, for the information professional, "handling" information/records is every bit as essential as searching, organizing, and disseminating. Perhaps it's time that proper usage of email be included somewhere in the LIS core? Have we taken email for granted, perhaps blinded by its supposed simplicity when in fact its more complicated than we realize? Amazingly, Van Vleck's article, written 11 years ago, is still as relevant as it is today as it was then, if not more so. If I had only read it when it first came out, I would be so much better off!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Open Access, Open Search, and Social Tagging

It's summer, and with the heat, ideas too can melt and meld together into a mishmash of incoherent mess. Recently, I've been introduced to a variety of online tools. With some reflection, I believe that three "trends" if we can call them that, have emerged from online environment which are highly relevant to the information professional.

(1) Social tagging - Flickr,, Wikipedia, and Library Thing are but a few of the online tools for which users can freely search for information (an items) through the creation of hyperlinks without the constraints of controlled vocabulary or rigid taxonomy structures. Anyone and everyone can create his or her own terms, post them, and share them other users. The question is, is such social tagging (ethnoclassification, folksonomies, or collaborative tagging) a new thing? Or is it an outgrowth of an existing online world which we've been using all along since the inception of the internet? Only now, we have terms for them.

(2) Open Access - Journals are slowly integrating themselves into the online world. Open Access is perhaps one of the hidden gems of the internet that is slowly emerging as an important tool in the academic/professional community. Library Student Journal, Journal of the Association for History and Computing, and Biomedical Digital Libraries are but an inch of the light years of open access journals readily available for perusal. Yet, recent controversy surrounding open access is just how "open" is it? Some journals charge its writers for a fee.

(3) Open Searching - Pubmed is one of the shining examples of how collaboration can open up the world of information to users in need. It's a matter of time, that it opens up to other avenues beyond the health sciences world and into the humanities, social sciences, and business. It still intrigues me the shroud of secrecy in the legal world, where Lexis Nexis and Westlaw charge the users by the minute. Although it does promote the librarian to a higher status of importance in the particular locale, does it not make an intriguing contrast with the "openess" of Pubmed?

So with this said, the question remains, is the librarian useful in this online world? Ab-so-lute-ly. As an information professional, librarians are perfect for such fact-finding and information searching missions. Not only do librarians have the knowledge of cataloguing/classification essential for a deeper understanding of how information is organized, they also have the social skills (and interest) to help users look for what they are searching for -- they're good at customer service! Because if you think about it, the online world is a jungle, and librarians are trained to sort through all that mess.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Librarians and Teaching Styles

Before entering the MLIS program at UBC, I had never realized how important teaching is in librarianship. Today, I had the chance to see one librarian in action, and it was fascinating to analyze his teaching rather than on his teaching content. On top of the usual core competencies of LIS (bibliographic control, refence, management, collection development, and info technology), I would add teaching as part of the mix.

Because there are numerous teaching styles, there can not be "categories" that cleanly and clearly define such styles. (Although, in Confucius' case, his disciples created several schools of thoughts based on different interpretations of their master's teachings).

Regardless of styles, or different schools of thought, teaching is an integral part of the librarian's work. He must not only present the material in a coherent manner, but also be engaging to his audience at the same time. In fact, teaching for librarians is probably more difficult than "traditional" teachers such as college professors, high school and elementary teachers. Whereas these teachers have a fairly predictable group of students, librarians have to constantly adjust and tailor their teaching styles according to their different audiences. For example, the approach that a librarian takes when teaching a class of undergraduates how to use databases might be completely different than how they teach a group of university professors how to start a weblog account.

A valuable and intriguing website for any information professional interested in improving his or her teaching skills is, which offers great lesson plans.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Leadership and Management

Recently, a librarian manager discussed with me his managerial philosophy. Managing people has always piqued my interest, as I see it as a combination of teaching, parenting, and coaching. Incidentally, I came across a fascinating article, Leadership or Management: Expectations for Heads of Reference Services in Academic Libraries, from Reference Librarian which nicely delves into the issues that we were discussing. (The same Volume: 39 Issue: 81's issue offers other articles related to the topic of library management).

In the organizational hierarchy, the most difficult position is the “front-line manager” who are the lower-level managers who supervise the operational activities of the library. Although it can be seen that they serve as the link between the management and the non-management staff, it can be construed that they are often squeezed into unenviable positions, making decisions which pleases neither the top nor the bottom.

Unaeze argues that management and leadership are not the same. While management plan budgets, organize the staff, solve problems, and provide stability, leadership requires establishing direction, motivating people, and producing change. A list of traits are analyzed, such as courage, decisiveness, flexibility, and time management.

I’ve had some super bosses but also have had mediocre ones. As important as Unaeze’s points are, my experiences offers some observations of management from the employee's perspective.

(1) Humour – Laughter often brings out the best in us. I find that using humour – even if the punch line fails – generates morale and eases the burden of the workday. The best bosses I’ve had (as well as teachers) have been those who took the time during breaks to come out and crack a few jokes, talk about the missed penalty, or just how wonderful a movie Back to the Future was.

(2) Trust – Managers don’t always need to be judicial. Sometimes, discrete should be traded in for a good chat with employees. It fosters trust. Of course, confidential discussions will be always be at risk, but as the saying goes, with high risk comes high rewards.

(3) The Human Touch – The best managers I have had are those who show their vulnerabilities. Cynicism, despondency, animosity are what makes us all common. I am often touched after personal chats with the supervisor, or when he or she spills a few personal anecdotes about the roadblocks that he or she faced along the way. With humility comes communication, and with that, a better, more motivated team.

(4) Hardwork – Even if the manager is not working on a task, he must appear as if he is, just for the sake of the team. Motivation and example come from the top, and if the leader doesn’t show it, then the staff is doomed to follow. I once had difficulty cutting some tape for urgent delivery from a busy retail bookstore. The manager brusquely took it out of my hand, sheared it with her own teeth, then resumed whatever task she was doing. Job done, problem solved. The experience left an indelible impression in my mind; it helped me realize that managing isn’t just about conceptualizing and brooding in a spacious office.

(5) Generosity - As the author Robert Kiyosaki once said, if you want to make money, you also have to give away money. And do it all without the expectation of any returns. Hence, I truly believe the best managers are those who are not shy to divulge "secrets of the trade" to others, and I most admire those who take on mentorship roles. In a profession which relies on information exchange and dissemination, what better way than to multiply your own information gathering talents?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Scholar versus the Invisible

In refuting the findings of Bergman’s size of the unreachable areas of the internet called the “invisible web,” Exploring the Academic Invisible Web argues that that no single library alone will be able to index the invisible web, let alone the Academic Invisible Web (AIW).

The article’s arguments are interesting when used to analyze the effectiveness of search engines, such as Google and its counterpart, Google Scholar. In the author’s opinions, the AIW can be effectively indexed only through cooperation of portals, that is, combining Google with Scirus, BASE, and Vascoda. Only by balancing the strengths and weaknesses of each can the AIW be properly mined.

The article offers a fascinating complement to a recent article, The Depth and Breadth of Google Scholar, which argues that one of Scholar’s weaknesses is its bias towards the sciences. However, that is just the tip of the iceberg; here are others:

(1) Broken Links – What makes Google strong also makes it weak. While citation analysis offers integrity to its sources, it unfortunately has a “blindspot” to sources that are single-paged entities which are put up on the internet solely not for linkage. There are numerous pages like this on the so-called “invisible” web, which Google does not catch, while others such as Yahoo! might.

(2) Currency - While Google Scholar has a plethora of sources, not all of it is recent. In fact, it might be detrimental for the health sciences if new discoveries are left at the bottom of the pile because they are not as cited as much as the older documents.

(3) Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility – With information saturation, the tradeoffs are up to the user’s needs, and requires Rangananthian philosophical debate to resolve. While Google provides a great deal of information, it requires users themselves to sort through the mass of information.

(4) Indexing – Although citation analysis is reliable, there is still too much grey literature floating in cyberspace. Until Google can somehow reach into these areas, it is still an incomplete tool. One possibility is its emulation of the Dublin Core, which can create a generic uniformity for everything posted on the internet. Although only apipedream, imagine the possibilities!

As someone once commented, relying Google for critical information can be like using an “axe instead of a scalpel” in surgery. Although it cannot replace the librarian professional, it does offer a nice complement to the team.