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One Search to Rule Them All

Why you still have to use multiple search engines to find library materials

Research Library Computer Resource Specialist

Scott Martin
Contact:
Collections, Research, and Instructional Services
A1540 Young Research Library

Why Isn't There One Search Box for Everything?

One Search to rule them all,
One Search to find them,
One Search to bring them all
and in the darkness bind them.

with apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien

Ever since Google became wildly popular, many people asked "Why can't library searching be as simple and easy as Google searching?"

There are actually a couple reasons behind this difference.

  1. Google's budget dwarfs that of every library in the world put together. They've spent a lot of money making a really good search engine. But that's actually a fairly minor issue compared to reason number 2.
  2. Library searching is more complicated because it's more complicated. It's the same reason why the Space Shuttle has more controls than your toaster. Nobody decided "let's make this shuttle really complicated and difficult to use." It's just the nature of reality that a machine capable of flying people to space and back is more difficult to use than a machine designed to heat bread.

Of course, reason #2 still begs the question: why is library searching so much more difficult? Or, put another way, why is Google searching so easy? If you're interested in finding out, read on.