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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.
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    Friday, February 23, 2007

    BL dumbs down

    Earlier this week, The British Library announced the launch of its new web site, and I looked at it and was not immediately impressed. It took a posting from Lorcan Dempsey to make me look again, and realise why their new look had not inspired me! This is "BL does Google"; this is an attempt to woo the masses by emulating what the masses know, and thus an implicit note that search engines are the best the web has to offer.

    It seems to me that The British Library should be leading the way into serious and scholarly research, rather than apeing the lowest common denominator of easy answers. Those who use the Library should not be encouraged to enter a single term and accept one of the first results in the list. Librarians and information scientists spend much of their time explaining to students that search engines are only the popular end of searching, that they do not necessarily produce the best answers, that there are other - possibly better - tools that can be used, that there are such things as search strategies and the intersection of search concepts, that subject-oriented resources provide alternative, focussed approaches... that researchers should strive to become information literate.

    While I entirely agree that the BL needs to move with the times and embrace new, possibly Web-2.0, approaches to providing and sharing information; I do not think that this will be achieved through emulating search engines; I do think that the BL should be leading the way in providing a better, social, access to its resources.

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