Google Knowledge Graph and Voice Search

I am amazed by Google’s recent developments with their Knowledge Graph and Voice Search products.  For people just on the hunt for some basic information on a topic, it’s the bees knees.  Here’s two examples:

Here’s what the Knowledge Graph taught me about Rivers Cuomo of the band Weezer. The basic information is all there and if I want to explore him and related topics further, I can do that.
Next up, here’s the Google Voice Search results, which seem to be based on the same information I got back from the Knowledge Graph:
Like many things, I start to think about how things like this can be used to benefit in libraries and also if they will have any significant impact on how we operate in the future.  My conclusion is just what you might expect it to be: these products, along with similar technology such as Apple’s Siri, will change how we interact with our patrons.

It’s only going to be a matter of time before most of our patrons have access to these technologies and use them quite frequently to answer the questions to which they are searching for answers.  So how does a librarian fit into that picture?  Are these products just another way to make our position obsolete?  My vote is no.  In fact, they’re the exact opposite…they’re giving us an opportunity to grow.

If these products take off in the way that I believe Google hopes for them to, it would considerably free up library staff to have more of a one on one focus with our patrons on bigger issues such as resume help, job searching, financial aid applications, and more.  These are the kinds of areas that no matter ho20w hard they try, Google or Apple can’t top a librarian.  You can’t take away just how important it is to have that one on one interaction and special attention.

In conclusion, I say that we should embrace this technology with open arms.  Imagine just how much better our time as librarians can be used if we’re not constantly answering “what time does this bus arrive?” or questions like that.  Google and its products can give us the opportunity to grow.


  1. I would love to agree with you about how this might help us, but I can’t, at least not right now. I think libraries are still at the point where we need to figure out not just how to catch up, but what to chase. There is way too much, leading us in too many directions. I agree with you that this type of search can help us with many of these simple patron request stuff, but I don’t know where you do you librarianning, but around here, it’s all simple stuff. We get very few requests for research. We gets lots of requests for hands-on help. But do you need to be a librarian to do that? Our $11/hour associates do that. But I agree that this tech will/can make libraries easier to use, particulary if we had Googlish voice search (so I could leave the desk for ten minutes to use the bathroom and most people could still gets answers from screen). And isn’t it amazing how much acceptable noise we welcome in libraries now? We want people to talk to the catalog, to talk to their phones (to find books) to talk to the self-checkout kiosk, to skype, to ??? I would love to see this kind of search integrated into our library catalog so it would show the title, author bio, map of (apporx.) location in the building, reviews, etc. But I would need to learn lots more computer stuff that get that done. cheers.

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