March 20, 2018

Google Scholar Offers Access to Scholarly Publications Metadata, and Librarians Take Note

By LJ Staff

Google has announced plans to work with academic publishers to release Google Scholar. The partnership will offer access to the metadata of scholarly publications, including those documents currently held behind subscription paywalls and not previously spidered by the company. The content will be "scholarly literature including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research." A specific list of publishers allowing their work to be indexed was unavailable at press time. The service does take advantage of OCLC’s Open WorldCat, which puts library catalogs in front of Google spiders, as well as the linking service CrossRef, which earlier this year pioneered a Google search project with 29 academic publishers including Blackwell’s and Springer and a number of university presses.

According to a Google press release, users executing a Google Scholar search would be able to look at a citation for a returned article but would need to gain access to the full text either through their university library, individual subscriptions, or any other relationship dictated by the publisher, including pay per view. Google says it will not earn money from new subscriptions or fees generated between searchers and publishers as a result of Google Scholar. While there is advertising potential in the model, a Google release stated that the company started the program to give back to the scholarly community. "We recognize the debt we owe to all those in academia whose work has made Google itself a reality," the company said. "We believe everyone should have a chance to stand on the shoulders of giants."

Since the launch announcement, librarians have been buzzing about what Google Scholar will mean to both their profession and the academic enterprise. Gary Price, a librarian, writer, and editor who edits the popular "ResourceShelf" weblog, emphasizes a vital but often overlooked component: marketing library resources and services. The discussion, he noted, is not about Google-bashing, but about looking at Google’s success and learning from it. The librarian’s challenge: to find ways to get users to use these library resources as instinctively as they now use Google. "Otherwise, what are we spending all this money on?" he asked. It’s is a key question, and one Price and Shirl Kennedy take up on ResourceShelf. "It’s worth watching to see if people begin paying for material located via Google Scholar that they can get free from a specialty database they may not know is available via their public or academic library," they wrote.