I saw this article by Nikesh Arora, who is vice-president of European operations for Google, on the FT.com site and nearly hit the roof; goodness knows what librarians (and indeed readers) will make of the following comment:
The challenge is that most of the information in the world is not yet online, which makes it impossible to find unless you know exactly what to look for - and where. In this process, Google accepts that what its partners and customers see as opportunities, critics might see as threats.
Take, for example, Google's new book search service. Millions of out-of-print and out-of-copyright books are gathering dust in libraries everywhere.
Information is "impossible to find" ? What are libraries there for - oh yes, for books to gather dust in, apparently... I must say that I find such a casual dismissal of a valuable and well-established profession totally insulting ! Were I a librarian, I would be spitting feathers right now. Clearly Nikesh Arora has never been near a library, or s/he would know that librarians are the best starting point for finding all sorts of information, and that librarians are knowledgeable and (for the most part) very friendly people who will go out of their way to assist their readers ! The number of messages that appear on Child_Lit each week from librarians asking if anyone can remember or identify a book for which a reader is searching attests to the effort that these lovely folk put in on their readers' behalf.
I have to say that I've never seen any books gathering dust in either the public library or the Bodleian Library here in Oxford. Both are extremely well used, and the public library service as a whole in Oxford looks (from this reader's point of view) to be very well used. I often have to reserve a book I want to read because it is out on loan - and I'm not talking about the sole copy of a title, either - these are titles of which there are often multiple copies of which many are out on loan.
Google offers a pretty good search service - it's certainly the only search engine I use, and some of their other services are also good (I am using their Blog service, after all), but this obsession with books is starting to grate on my nerves more than a little. I do hope that someone points out to them that they don't OWN the world's knowledge !