Thursday, November 16, 2006

Cranky thought of the day

We lose students to Google as a result of lethargic library databases - lengthy loading times, etc. When it's slow, it's irritating... it's like being on dialup (*GASP*). We are losing them because Google is faster, even on its slowest days.

Of course, this is just a cranky thought without a suggested solution because I'm not sure what needs to be done to remedy this. Is it bandwidth? Server space? I have no idea. I'm not even sure where the problem is. Is it primarily a local problem? Or is it consortium-wide? Are our databases just too "heavy" and it's the fault of the providers? Yeah, no clue.

But what I do know is that I just love promising students that "it really will load eventually. Really."


Nye! said...

This problem is not confined to you. Happens everywhere. It's infuriating.

herzogbr said...

Yes, it happens here in New England, too. And not that it helps, but one thing to keep in mind is that Google is a for-profit business, and can spend millions of dollars on making sure their thousands or servers are up and running at full processing capacity.

Whereas, on the other hand, we libraries often depend on outside entities for our internet connection, share our bandwidth with other departments, and are accessing vendor databases which we have no control over whatsoever.

So it's not a fair comparison at all, but that doesn't stop patrons from making it. After all, a patron just yesterday ask me to fix her Yahoo email account - you know, the one she hadn't used in two years, the one she's forgotten the password to, and the one I'm sure Yahoo deleted long ago due to disuse. But I'm a librarian, which means in the eyes of the public, I can do anything.

Andrew said...

Not knowing which database you are talking about...I would suggest that the root problem locally is bandwidth. That being said, there are times when there are problems with the consortial servers in Cowtown. This slowness usually happens when there is peak usage, which happens around this time of the academic year.

OCLC reported some stats on this need for speed in their college students' perceptions report. One of the main reasons students prefer to use search engines over library resources is that they are faster.

paul said...

If google is faster on the same machine then it is definitely not local bandwidth. They'll both go through the same connection and use approximately the same amount of data. If the search is locally performed (server in your library), then it has nearly unlimited bandwidth (LANs are generally MUCH faster than Internet connections).

My guess is that the culprit is the search engine itself. Google has hundreds of thousands of servers and some of the best minds in the World (many thousands of those).

Lesser search systems are generally MUCH dumber than google and might rely on functionality built into the database software---which is much less efficient.

For example:
Google can search the entire Internet and find an email from me posting a uCLinux patch faster than Thunderbird can LOCALLY search JUST MY MAIL for the same message.

I'd need more precise examples to be sure, of course.

Kat said...

nye! - I know it happens everywhere. I still wish there were something we could do about it... as you say, it really is infuriating.

herzogbr - librarians CAN do anything - they taught us that library school. I know Google has the benefit of millions of dollars, but it still sucks. :)

Andrew - I can't remember which particular database it was. I don't blame the students for wanting something faster, but it sure makes our jobs harder.

Paul - the server is not in our library, although it is on campus obviously. The slowness probably has something to do with the database's search engine. sigh.