I sense that Google Books has reached a tipping point in awareness and use among undergraduates. More and more undergraduates are finding and using Google Books themselves, and are using it in clever ways.
We have been collecting data from Freshman in Stanford’s PWR 1 (essentially = Freshman Writing) classes for the last 2 quarters by having them fill out a short survey at the end of the quarter. One of the questions is “What advice would you give about conducting research to someone who had yet to take PWR 1?” Although we have not been highlighting Google Books in our workshops or Research Guides, more and more students are using it, and recommending it to others. Here are some of the responses about using Google Books from our survey:
Use Google Books to skim a book before hunting it down in the library only to find that it is not helpful.
Use google books to search quickly through books you checked out at the library to find relevant chapters
Use the library resources and sometimes you can find the entire text of scholarly books on google books
Consider making use of Google Books to get hold of sources that may be checked out.
It is a nice mix of students who are taking advantage of the full-text indexing to help them make efficient use of the hard copies of books they checked out, and students who are using books available in full-text on Google Books as a back-up when they can’t get the hard copy.
Fears that students would abandon libraries and library collections in favor of whatever they could find online don’t seem to be coming to fruition here. Students seem to be using Google Books to supplement their library research. Very cool. I think it is time for us to start incorporating some of the advice from these students into our information literacy programs.