Saturday, July 3, 2010

Why we need a box of web search tools (and a strategy)

To a man with a hammer everything looks like a nail. The Google search engine works so well in most cases that it is easy to forget that it won’t do everything. Even in the world of fasteners there also are nuts and screws. We really need other tools as well, metaphorical wrenches and screwdrivers.

One other very useful tool is a subject directory. When we are starting to research a new topic, we really need a few good reliable sites rather than ten million mediocre ones. Subject directories are trees hand built by people that contain the good stuff. Yahoo started out as a subject directory, and there is still one there. Google also still has a directory hidden away. is yet another commercial directory. The Internet Public Library is an excellent noncommercial directory.

Another useful tool is a metasearch engine. Metasearch engines send a search several different places and then organize the results. Yippy and Ixquick are two examples. Yippy started out as Vivismo, and then became Clusty. Reference librarians keep up with these constant changes.

A few vey helpful web pages show us a whole box of search tools. The Boise Public Library has a Search the Web page, and the Internet Public Library has a Search Beyond IPL2 page. When we want to lose the habit of always just Googling, we can set either of these as the home page for our web browser.

We also need to have a search strategy to avoid getting lost in the details. The University of California at Berkeley search tutorial has an excellent web page about this topic.

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