Google Scholar Takes a Beating – Peter Jasco

Photo of pumpkin patch

Pumpkin Patch at Earthbound Farms in Carmel Valley

This presentation addressed directly the conference theme.  In other words, the person proposing the session was paying attention.  Peter Jasco gave an impressive and candid account of the state of indexing and abstracting services.  Jasco believes that libraries can save huge amounts of money (tens of thousands, if not more) by cutting back on indexing and abstracting services and relying on other sources for those services.  He does think that Google offers a part of the answer, but not Google Scholar, which is software that is seriously flawed.  Jasco admits to having confronted Google representatives at conferences and demonstrating to them the problems in the company’s software, and Jasco said that the representatives have been evasive in their responses.

The problems with Google Scholar are both wide and deep, according to Jasco, starting with Google Scholar’s inability to handle Boolean searches. The software produces some embarrassing search results when it orders results chronologically.  It was laughable to see Jasco’s slides of the number of possible relevant results produced for a search with the parameters, say, 1960-2009, and then the results for the same search with the chronological parameters of 1980-2009.  Anyone would expect that the number of possible relevant results would decrease with a more constricted chronology.  The reverse turns out to be the case with Google Scholar.  Jasco convinced his audience that Google Scholar needs less “goo” and more “scholar.”  He knew the audience would chuckle at his slides, but he was not laughing. For him, such failures mean people have not done their jobs correctly.

For other reasons, Jasco said that he does not a see a future for librarians trained solely to produce indexes and abstracts.

Jasco possesses the confidence of a man who knows of what he speaks.  He has spent a good portion of his life studying the topic, and it shows.  IL2009 benefits from his presence.

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