Monday, March 8, 2010

A quick note about Google Books

For the past few days I've been in Anchorage, Alaska attending the 50th annual Alaskan Librarians Association meeting.  (More on that tomorrow...)

In the process, I taught a tutorial on Intermediate Google Web Search skills (click on that link to see what I talked about).  And in the process I showed a bit about Google Books.

In particular, I highlighted a couple of neat, somewhat unknown features of Google Books.

I was even MORE surprised when I found out that few of them used Google Books.  It's not because they didn't want to, but because they couldn't see why they would ever want to use Books.  A quick demonstration fixed that problem. 

Surprisingly, only one or two librarians out of the 400 there knew about the "Find in a library" link to WorldCat.  (Just out of curiosity, did you?) 

My Books demo was to:
 (1) show them the WorldCat link ("Find this book in a library"),
 (2) illustrate how to search for the text of a passage in a book, 
 (3) then how to locate archival books about topics of local interest (primarily Alaska state history;
       example: find old books that mention the Chilkoot trail),
 (4) how to use the shelf feature in Books,
 (5) how to search the magazines collection in Books. 

While all of these features are wonderful, if you're a teacher on Kodiak Island trying to get a back issue of Life magazine, it can be quite a wait for the interlibrary loan to get the back issue to you.  But on Books, that's a 10 second operation--Example:  search for magazines in the collection that mention Alaska statehood.

And the "Find in a library" link is incredibly useful if you're looking for a book that's (physically) nearby.

I did a search for books by Erin Mckean and found "Verbatim" (a wonderful book).  Now, to find it in a local library, I click on "Find in a library."  

Ah.  This is what you see if you're in the town of Kodiak on Kodiak Island, a smallish fishing village without an extensive collection.  You can see I entered the zip code for Kodiak in the "Enter your location" box.  But now you know where to look. 

As it happens, I actually live in Palo Alto, California, not so far from Stanford University.  

When I put in THAT zip code, I can see that there are several copies within easy biking distance of home.  

Now you know the secret of finding a book via Google Books.  It's handy on Kodiak, and it's handy where you live.  (And it's REALLY handy when you're looking for a super-rare book too.)

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