Intermediate Search Engines Class

I previously blogged about the Basic Search Engines class I teach once in awhile. So, I thought I’d be thorough and also mention the Intermediate Search Engines class I do.

Both of these classes are taught for the Kansas City Metropolitan Library & Information Network (KCMLIN), a regional library training and resource sharing consortium for the Kansas City area. Library staff take the classes for CEU credits.

The intermediate search engines class goes deeper into digging information out of search engines. I update it in little bits here and there, but probably need to give it an overhaul. What do y’all think? Anyone have some suggestions for me? I’d sure love ’em!

Google’s Keyhole, Maps, and Local Come Together

(found at the Unofficial google Blog):
image of Kansas City Public LibraryI saw Google’s Keyhole for the first time at the Computers in Libraries conference, and thought it was pretty cool. Apparently, Google is starting to combine Google Local, Maps, and Keyhole – look at this image…

That little thought bubble thing with the address is pointing at me! Instead of getting the normal drawn map view, Google now has a Satelite view that adds static Keyhole images. Neat, huh?

I still need to play with it, but I ultimately think A9’s version of real images (storefront images while driving down a street) is currently more useful. With the A9 version, you see the actual street at street-level, which might look familiar to me. The satellite view of an area doesn’t help me – I can’t for the life of me recognize my building in Google’s satellite image (although if I zoom out of the image a little, I DO recognize I-35).

Nonetheless, it’ll be cool to see where all this is going.

Some Observations

I just got back from teaching a basic search engines class to nine local library workers. This class is, to me, extremely basic information – I cover topics like “What is the web?”, “differences between search directories and search engines,” and “How to evaluate what you find.” Very basic stuff. While all of my students work in libraries, they have different job duties – I had everything from a circulation clerk to professional, “degreed” librarians. Some of them were there to earn CEUs, some were there to learn about searching the web.

And you know what? Many of them DID learn something today (they told me so). So here are those observations hinted at in the title of this post:

  • No one is born knowing everything
  • ya gotta learn sometime
  • I know lots about library techie stuff, but not everyone is like me
  • I don’t know much about other areas of librarianship.. but someone else does.

As I was pondering this, I realized this really relates to the whole Gorman “blog people” thing. Obviously, Gorman is not an idiot. He’s an intelligent library director who is not familiar with library-related blogs. Blogs aren’t tools he uses on a daily basis. My guess is that his first experience with blogs stemmed from the negative feedback he received after his discussion of Google’s e-text initiatives – probably not a very pleasant or positive introduction!

I DO use blogs as a tool in my daily job routine – they help me keep up with technology trends, and keep me learning about new things in the library world.

So here’s a thought – are there any “library director” blogs out there? Something that Gorman could actually use as part of his daily job routine? My guess is this – if someone showed him a blog that proved useful to his job, his opinion might change. Much more so than if he reads that some weirdo on Dave’s Blog thinks his opinion is…. well, you get the idea.

Playing with Google Maps

Trying out Google Maps. It’s very cool! I tried finding my home address – found it just fine. Then I tried my library.

First, I typed in “kansas city public library.” It did fine – found all but one of our branches, and found our old location for the main library. It also lumped in North Kansas City Public Library, which is another library system (but it’s about 5 miles from us, too).

Google Maps also gave the old version of our URL (www.kcpl.lib.mo.us) to all the branch libraries, but our normal url (kclibrary.org) to our main branch. Hmm…

Now I’m going to play “where’s Waldo” – to try and find the missing branch (Waldo Community branch). If I do this search (“kansas city public library” waldo), I find the Waldo, North-east, and Ruiz branches… and also find Kansas City, Kansas Public Library (yet another close but separate library system across the state line – also a good 5 miles away).

So I sent a “Send Feedback” email giving them the correct address of our new Central Library… we’ll see what happens.

Website Credibility Equals Pleasing Design?!!?

Ok. I’m probably behind the times here, but I was thinking about how people evaluate website credibility (and more to the point, how I teach it in search engine classes). So I did a search to find some examples of best practices, and came across this amazing study done in 2002. It scared me.

Why did it scare me? I freaked because the number 1 thing people looked at (2,684 in this study) was… VISUAL DESIGN (46.1%)! Not the validity of the information presented on the page, not the accuracy of facts mentioned, but … design. “Nearly half of all consumers in the study assessed the credibility of sites based in part on the appeal of the overall visual design of a site, including layout, typography, font size and color schemes” (link to quote page). One participant was even quoted as saying “just looks more credible” (about a website he/she was “evaluating”). My goodness.

You and I both know that the actual information presented on the page, whether that information comes in text, image, sound, etc., is the MOST important part of any website – a pretty website with no content isn’t terribly useful to our customers (well, unless your customer happens to be a web designer hunting for creative visual ideas…). And at the same time, given the same information on two different websites, it just makes sense to go with the better-designed site (easier/faster to download, easy-to-read format, etc.).

But the apparent fact that consumers are judging potential sources of useful information by how visually appealing it is or isn’t IS NOT GOOD! Sounds to me like it’s up to us library-types to continue teaching not only how to search the web, but maybe more importantly – how to evaluate the stuff found while searching the web.

And one other random thought – since our library websites are, in essence, being judged by the clothes they wear – is yours dressed appropriately? Does it have that “I’m useful” look? And what exactly does “I’m useful” look like? Any thoughts/ideas?