Information Resources: Google Extends its Reach

Key Words: Google, Internet, World Wide Web

In the last weeks of 2004, the Google search engine announced two major projects that have the potential to change how we seek information. Google Scholar is targeted to the academic community as a tool for finding scholarly literature in the form of articles, books, abstracts, theses, or technical reports. The Google Web Library will digitize millions of books now only available through select libraries and make them available to all via the Internet. These efforts signal further change in the role the online information environment will play for professionals and consumers, as well as the continuing need for other Web search companies, publishing houses, database vendors, and libraries to assess what unique value they offer. It is an interesting time.

Google Scholar

The beta version of Google Scholar made its debut on November 18, 2004. By collaborating with scientific and academic publishers such as the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), Nature, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Google’s search robots were able to crawl and index articles that previously were blocked from the robots’ view. If the articles are restricted and require a subscription or fee to view, Google Scholar provides an abstract. As with a regular Google search, results are ordered based on relevancy to the query. The relevancy ranking takes into account the number of citations found to the document. These citations are included in the results listing, even if the document being cited is not available online.

Criticism of Google Scholar

While there is considerable enthusiasm for this step to increase the reach of a well-respected Web search engine, there is concern as well. Much of the criticism about Google Scholar centers on the lack of information about the content (Jacsó, 2004; Kennedy & Price, 2004). How has Google defined "scholarly," for example? Clearly much that now appears does not meet the gold standard of peer-reviewed. This will be of particular concern if students are drawn to the ease of using this tool, but are unable to discriminate between the wheat and chaff. This makes the outcome of this search experience more questionable than when starting with a specialized research database such as MEDLINE or PsycINFO. And, it must be remembered that the search features on Google do not begin to approach the options offered by many of the research databases. Nor does the retrieval of citations to articles begin to match the power and comprehensiveness of the subscription-based Web of Science database.

Google has not disclosed the identity of its publishing partners who are providing access to material that a Web search engine normally could not reach. Therefore, a searcher cannot know how complete a search might be. This may matter less if only a few articles are needed, although getting the best articles may not be possible. Although Google Scholar offers the promise of access to the scholarly literature, most of this full-text material is still protected with access requiring a subscription or article fee. A user may fail to realize that one’s home library already provides the needed access or otherwise obtain a copy through interlibrary loan arrangements.

Jacsó (2004) is particularly critical of the gaps in coverage for material from collaborating publishers. He maintains these are enormous and that Google "picked up information for many redundant and irrelevant pages and ignored a few million full-text scholarly papers and/or their citation/abstract records." Given that this is a beta version of the Google Scholar service, one can only expect that shortcomings will be addressed.

Examples from Google Scholar search on "Florence Nightingale"

Note: Google Scholar is not available from the main Google page ( Rather, you need to click on the main page "More" link and then select "Google Scholar." Or, it is directly available from

1. Article abstract with full article available only through subscription or fee: In this case the searcher will be taken to an online abstract, but the full-text is available only through subscription or by paying a fee. Four citations of this article were found online also.








[PDF] The virtues in the moral education of nurses: Florence Nightingale revisited
D Sellman - Cited by 4
... Unfashionable as Florence Nightingale is, it is nonetheless worth noting that she was instrumental in continuing the Aristotelian tradition of being concerned ...
Nursing Ethics, 1997 - -












2. Article available freely in full: This is an example of an article that is freely available online and for which citations were also identified.








Nursing nomenclature and classification system development
M Gordon, F RN - Cached - Cited by 6
... Available at
... Florence Nightingale delivered a paper titled Proposals for
a Uniform Plan of Hospital Statistics ...
Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 1998 - -












3. Book: The following example is of a book published in 1983. Google Scholar found that this was cited twenty times on the Web. "Library Search" will allow you to check for libraries in a given area that own this book, using the WorldCat database from the OCLC Online Computer Library Center. "Web Search" executes a Google search to identify more material about the item available on the Web.








[BOOK] Florence Nightingale, 1820-1910 -
Library Search - Web Search
CBFGW Smith - Cited by 20
New York: Atheneum, 1983












4. Citation: This entry highlights that 67 citations were found on the Web to this work by F. Nightingale, but no online copy was found. Again the "Web Search" will look for related material on the Web.








[CITATION] Notes on Nursing - Web Search
F Nightingale - Cited by 67
Philadelphia: JB Lippincott.
(Original work published 1859), 1992












Google Web Library

Google issued a press release on December 14, 2004, announcing plans to work with the libraries of Harvard, Stanford, the University of Michigan, the University of Oxford, and the New York Public Library to scan library books and to make them searchable online. The company’s goal is an ambitious one indeed. Larry Page, Google co-founder, stated "Google's mission is to organize the world's information, and we're excited to be working with libraries to help make this mission a reality."

Once these resources begin to become available, a Google searcher will see links to relevant books in a search result listing. By clicking on the title, the searcher will be taken to a Google Print page where it will be possible to browse the full-text of public domain works and brief excerpts and/or bibliographic data of copyrighted material. Google states it will be guided the limits imposed by copyright law. Examples of the types of information to be provided are given at

By reported estimates (Markoff & Wyatt, 2004), 15 million books will be scanned at a cost of an estimated $10 each. The project is expected to take at least a decade.

The promise of the Google Web Library resource is that it will increase the visibility of current books and the accessibility of older books that are in the public domain. Observers expect that other major Web search engines will pursue similar ventures. It is not clear how this will change the role of libraries over time, but one can only support efforts that make more information available to many.


Barbara F. Schloman, PhD, AHIP
Assistant Dean, Library Information Services
Libraries & Media Services
Kent State University
Kent, OH 44242

Disclaimer: Mention of a Web site does not imply endorsement by the author, OJIN, or NursingWorld. Links to web sites are current at the time of publication, but are not subsequently updated.


Google checks out library books. (2004, December 14). Google Press Release. Retrieved December 18, 2004, from

Jacsó, P. (2004, December). Google Scholar beta. Péter's Digital Reference Shelf. Retrieved December 18, 2004, from

Kennedy, S. & Price, G. (November 18, 2004). Web Search—Google: Big news—"Google Scholar" is born. ResourceShelf. Retrieved December 18, 2004, from

Markoff, J. & Wyatt, E. (2004, December 14). Google is adding major libraries to its database [Electronic version]. New York Times, p.A1.

Citation: Schloman, B. (February 14, 2005). Information Resources Column: "Google Extends its Reach." OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. Vol 10, No. 2.