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I love Google...don't tell the librarian!

I'm taking a grad class right now in analysis and problem solving methods. At the moment, we're using Matlab to analyze .
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor

I'm taking a grad class right now in analysis and problem solving methods. At the moment, we're using Matlab to analyze .wav files and explore harmonics, series, and some very interesting trigonometry. An undergrad made the mistake of walking into the class to drop off materials for the professor and was immediately recruited to sing for us (coincidentally, she is in an a capella group on campus). As the teaching assistant did a quick search for an online frequency-to-musical-note-converter so we could tell the poor undergrad how flat or sharp she was, she said, "I love Google."

I've often expressed the same sentiment, although the same could be said in this case about most decent search engines and the broad range of resources available on the Web. However, one of my classmates (another teacher) piped in and said, "Don't tell our librarian. She thinks Google is the Devil."

I don't think that her librarian is alone in her dislike of Google. Unfortunately, despite its outstanding search algorithms and wide variety of free, value-added resources, it gets a bad name with library scientists since so many students use it to the exclusion of other print and electronic materials. Wikipedia is much the same; when used as a starting point for research, questions, and discussion, it's an incredible tool. When used to cut and paste into a paper without any learning involved (as the first few hits of any Google search invariably are), then it loses any value as an educational tool.

The other resources (whether in print, online, or as local data stores) that librarians can provide for students are incredible as well, but Google and the like are accessible anytime, anywhere. Teachers, library scientists, parents, and anyone else with influence in students' lives need to educate young people in how to exploit everything that Google (and the rest of the Web) has to offer, instead of populating plagiarized papers with superficial bits of meaningless information.

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