What if Google Were Built by Librarians?

Google’s PageRank algotrithm certainly has its detractors, among them people who feel that using links as ‘votes’ for a site’s importance isn’t the smartest way to get the best content. Unsurprisingly, librarians fit within this group, and they set out to determine what Google would look like if the weight of search results were powered by the expertise and credibility judgements of actual people. Namely, themselves.

The “Reference Extract” is currently being developed by the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) along with the information schools of Syracuse University and the University of Washington. OCLC is an international cooperative that pools resources among over 69,000 libraries in 112 countries and territories.

The Reference Extract won’t be a simple online directory; instead, it will focus on answering questions. Users will enter a search term and get results weighted toward sites most often referred to by librarians at institutions like the Library of Congress. The idea is that you’re getting the “natural” intelligence of librarians to help you find a credible source of information.

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says it’s a case of librarians trying to ‘out-Google Google’, but Google hardly needs to be concerned about the competition. Reference Extract has a $100,000 grant to get started – up against a $150-billion company – and they’re not trying to do quite the same thing.

But, Reference Extract sounds like it may very well provide a useful service. After all, the internet is huge and full of inaccurate information. The Dewey Decimal system may be a dinosaur, but librarians still have a place in the world of research.

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