Oregon State University

I tend to look at library strategic plans when they are available on the web. They are interesting indicators of where libraries think they most need to create value in coming years. I just came across the 2004 Strategic Plan [pdf] at Oregon State University.

In conversations with our key stakeholders, we have received a clear and unambiguous message about the expectations for OSU Libraries. In the future, the libraries will:
  • be competetive with our peer institution libraries;
  • be as easy to use as Google and other search engines;
  • deliver information wherever and whenever it is needed; andtake the lead in archiving and preserving digital information.
This is an ambitious agenda, and makes it clear where the library needs to be ....

Incidentally, I was also interested to see that OSU Libraries place a search box to their metasearch service square in the middle of the library home page. This is alongside a list of library services. The library user does not have to spend time looking for things. It is nice just to see the list, each with an explanatory phrase. This seems much more helpful than a list of services clustered under headings which may or may not make a lot of sense to the user who has not been initiated into the inner workings of the library.

Comments: 3

Mar 17, 2005
John Kirriemuir
be as easy to use as Google and other search engines.

I've seen this in other library agenda, and it makes me a little uncomfortable. I wonder if this is wise for a library to compare its facilities to Google in this or any way. Granted, Google is ubiquitous, and recognisable by all.

However, putting it in the strategic plan immediately invites comparisons with Google that may not be healthy. For example, "Easy to use" to many people would be interpreted by same as "Easy to get thousands of hits".

Why not state this agenda item in terms of the library users? For example, "Be easy for the typical OSU library user to understand and operate."

Mar 18, 2005
Ross Singer

That's ridiculous. "Easy to use", in reference to Google means, "get something pretty close to what you're looking for in the first couple hits" with a "simple, natural language query".


The hand-wringing around the lack of "advanced search options" and "thousands of results" are strawmen to the real problem. Google is eating our lunch as far as market share (in terms of where the library is perceived as an information search tool) and, rather than take a good look at why Google has this sort of ubiquity and momentum, we instead ridicule its lack of sophistication.


The problem with this tactic is that there is an enormous wealth of information, on nearly every topic imaginable, easily accessible electronically. For a vast majority, the information out there is "good enough" or "close enough" to what they need to work. In the case of faculty or doctoral students (and, ideally all graduate students, but I don't think this is realistic), Google is not sufficient (for all research needs).


I am not a Google zealot, by any means, but whistling past the graveyard will get us nowhere.

Mar 25, 2005
John Kirriemuir

I sort of agree with the main point. But because Google is the de facto option for non-academic searches, should that automatically mean that it is some kind of standard for libraries to attain to?

When I am looking for general stuff on computer and video games, google offers a satisfactory method. Though I would dispute the "first couple of hits" statement; it is rare that I'm confident with the first page of hits in Google. (Is there research anywhere on how many pages of hits people usually go through before either finding, or giving up).

However, if I am looking for research experiments on the use of computer games in education, it is worse than useless; the various academic databases I have access to provide the only true mechanism (even if it takes a lot longer to search systematically through them).

I still don't think that defining an agenda in terms of an alternative system that carries a whole bundle of criteria (no matter how good the system is for some, but not all, purposes) is healthy.