I use it. Don’t you?

But at what cost?

We spent a lot of time discussing Google in my library class last fall. Google is ripe fodder for librarian anxiety, because at first glance, it poses the single biggest threat to the future of real, live, paid librarians. From the Google email site:

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally useful and accessible.

Sounds like a library mission statement, yes?

As a poet put it, in the information glut, poets are the ones who help discern knowledge from information. That’s what librarians do too. And usually with a little less opaqueness than poets.

But if the powerful Google aims to do the same thing, how can mere mortal librarians stand in its mighty path? Do they need to? Librarians use Google all the time, as a tool to help find relevant and authoritative information for library users.

It’s well known, however, that it is possible to buy and/or fool rankings in Google. And rank is the arbiter of authority, at least, to the casual user (ie., 95% of Google users).

So for now, librarians provide that vital service: helping weed what’s relevant and authoritative from what’s not. That’s what librarians have always done. Can Google replace that function? Can a machine replace a human being?

That’s a pretty stale question, I know. Perhaps a better point to make is that if we believe that a machine can replace a human being, then we will fail to fund things like libraries and librarians. If the popular mindset is that Google offers everything a librarian can, soon there won’t be a library to go to.