Friday, October 19, 2007

The unending search for knowledge

A search on Wendell Berry in google turns up 1,150,000 hits. How much of this is actually relevant to what I'm interested in is anybody's guess, but google does a pretty good job of pulling the good stuff to the very top.

A keyword search in EKU's library catalog, eQuest, turns up 92 results. A subject search in eQuest brings back 9 hits, while an author search brings back 69 hits ( the man is a prolific writer!)

Obviously the results list for these searches in eQuest is much smaller because the search was limited to just what the library actually owns . This is good for those of us who are physically stuck in the Crabbe Library and just want to know what books there are for us to touch.

Searches in eQuest will bring back much smaller, precise results, especially if one limits the search to subject headings or author headings--those carefully controlled terms that only a select few can establish, and which are only applied to those records that are explicitly about those certain subjects, or written by those particular authors.

For example, the subject heading "Berry, Wendell, 1934- --Criticism and interpretation" will only be attached to records for books that are actually studies of Mr. Berry's books, so one can be pretty certain that searching by this subject heading will bring back only relevant results, not some children's book that happens to have the words "berry" and "interpretation" scattered somewhere in the text.

Compare this with a google search, which does not rely on actual assigned subject headings, but on different factors, such as the number of times a certain word shows up in a website, and what part of the website it appears in (in the title of a website, or down at the bottom?). But while a google search will inevitably bring in some irrelevant results, it still does a pretty good job in pointing out many websites of interest. Hence, the googlization of the world (of which I am a happy partaker).

My favorite way of searching for books is to do keyword searches in Amazon. When I find a book of interest, I'll search for it in my library catalog, or worldcat (notice the worldcat search box in my blog?), to see what subject headings it has been given, and search library catalogs by those subject headings. I've found quite a few things of interest this way.

And the pile of things to read grows and grows..

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