I thought the results of this study were interesting, though not surprising. Librarians at SUNY Buffalo compared search results from their catalog and Google Books and found that Google Books generated many more results and that “many of the Google Books results were relevant and useful.” It would probably be the case when comparing Google Books with my library’s catalog, even though we have many more books in our library than Google has yet digitized.
I would be curious to see the result of a similar comparison between Google Books and WorldCat, though. Often when looking for books on a subject, I skip my own OPAC and head for WorldCat anyway because I always come up with more results. It’s not just a matter of WorldCat having more records, though obviously it does. WorldCat also seems to have more complete records as well. Almost inevitably when I do a keyword search, WorldCat generates ten times as many records as the Princeton catalog, including records for books Princeton owns but that don’t show up with the same keyword search in our OPAC. Usually, that’s because the WorldCat record has tables of contents or additional subject headings not in our records. Though I use Google Books occasionally, I haven’t noticed it being any better than WorldCat, but that may change.
Imagine the possibilities if Google succeeds in what appears to be its endeavor to take over the information world. What kind of book searching capability would we have if Google and OCLC merged? GoogleWorldCat would probably put all the OPAC vendors out of business.
In the information-poor world of a rural high school library, I’ve found Google Books useful. But a librarian will get more and better results searching it than an ordinary person. A teacher at my high school asked for my help in finding a play. He wanted to see how many people were in the cast and get a feeling for the characters. He’d searched in Google and Google Books without success. I searched and found it right away–full text in Google Books. Instead of giving him the URL, I dropped by to find out what he’d tried and to show him what I’d tried. The reason I found the play and he didn’t? I added the author’s last name to the words in the title. We understand keyword searching and thus tend to get better results.