Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Date of this Version


Document Type



Library Philosophy and Practice


Traditional research tools used by libraries, such as encyclopedias and catalogs were created in an age of print and information scarcity. They have not kept up with changes in the information world, including an abundance of online information in different formats and the rise of interdisciplinary topics which attempt to solve ‘real world’ messy problems and not traditional theoretical questions. The traditional tools rest on collaboration between OCLC, LOC, private aggregators, librarians and faculty. The search results they deliver offer excessive information with very little guidance on how to systematically sift through them. This makes the research process harder and turns novice researchers towards Google. This paper argues that novice researchers looking for an overview of a research topic are better off starting with Google Books than with an encyclopedia or the catalog. To explore this, the interdisciplinary topic of mindfulness was searched in an encyclopedia, a variety of OPACs, and in Google Books. Google Books returned the most relevant results with the least effort. The searches lead to a host of questions which must be addressed if novice researchers are to use the traditional tools of research created collaboratively by educators, catalogers and librarians. Admonishing students not to use an advertising company such as Google for research is not enough; the traditional purveyors of research have to collaborate to offer a better alternative. The author also makes recommendations towards this objective.