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Google Meets eBay: What Academic Librarians Can Learn from Alternative Information Providers (10 Jun 2003)
Google Answers is part of a much larger trend to provide networked reference assistance. Expert services have sprung up in both the commercial and non-profit sector. Libraries too have responded to the Web, providing a suite of services through the virtual reference desk (VRD) movement, from email reference to chat reference to collaborative services that span the globe [5]. As the Internet's content continues to grow and deepen - encompassing over 40 million web sites - it has been met by a groundswell of services to find and filter information. These services include an extensive range from free to fee-based, cost-recovery to for-profit, and library providers to other information providers - both new and traditional. As academic libraries look towards the future in a dynamic and competitive information landscape, what implications do these services have for their programs, and what can be learned from them to improve library offerings?

This paper presents the results of a modest study conducted by Cornell University Library (CUL) to compare and contrast its digital reference services with those of Google Answers. The study provided an opportunity for librarians to shift their focus from fearing the impact of Google, as usurper of the library's role and diluter of the academic experience, to gaining insights into how Google's approach to service development and delivery has made it so attractive.
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