Why not use Google?

Classes started at AUC two weeks ago, but we’re just starting our first real session next week, in part because of an exemption exam and in part because of some construction delays on our new campus. In any case, as I prepare to teach two sections of our semester-long library class, I find myself wondering how I’ll convince students of the value of library resources.

Just today I’ve been doing some of my very own research, on canine seizures (a topic that, unfortunately, has become of great interest to me in the past few days). Right now I have an article printed out that I’ll read more carefully later. You know how I found it? This morning I googled dog seizures. I dismissed the first result. This article? It was the second result.

I did some evaluation almost unconsciously: I read through several paragraphs and took note of where it agreed with what little I already knew from my vet; considered its lack of currency (1995); noted the in-text citations; and glanced through the bibliography. But I did not research the article’s author, consult a library database, or even look at the URL.

So I did exactly what we tell our students not to do: google something and use one of the first few hits. Of course, I’m a librarian with a decent sense for what’s credible and what’s not. But I’m no expert in veterinary studies, and this article could be total bunk. But more than seeming credible, it answered all the questions I had, with an overview of the topic, explanation of symptoms and diagnoses, and a list of pharmaceutical and alternative treatments. In short, it gave me exactly what I wanted.

This week, if my students are feeling bold, they might ask me, “Why not Google?”

Ultimately, sometimes the most practical answer to this question may be, “Because your teacher says.”

How about you? What’s your best answer?