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Joe Nocera Speaking Truth to Google

Roy Tennant observed that Google hadn’t bothered exhibiting at ALA Annual 2008. I think Roy has a “game over” feeling about that — like we’re finally irrelevant enough for Google to ignore.

I have another take on this, bolstered by Joe Nocera’s article in the New York Times about Google’s deteriorating daycare options. Google has proven itself to be just another aging company where common sense and sincere dedication to human need have yielded to impatience with employees who want, of all things, day care for their children, a need the company has likened to free M&Ms.

Obviously, one point is that the United States still doesn’t have its act together about daycare. Not long ago I worked with a smart, dedicated woman who had grown up and been educated in China, and she observed that our large state university completely fell down on childcare options. In China, her kids would have had childcare. Period. Here, childcare was dangled as an option, but her kids would have been in middle school by the time they moved off the waiting list.

But I’d like to repeat a point I keep making while big universities fall over themselves to participate in Google’s digitization projects. Google is a relatively young company (though aging rapidly, if Nocero’s story has credence). Everyone assumes Google will rule the world forever. But we have thought that about a lot of companies.

In the end, if we really care about our software and our data and our materials, we have to fight to keep them open, to keep them available for use, and to preserve them — on our own, not through the secret back-door doings of a company too young to drive.  We keep re-learning this lesson. We learned it when we privatized library software, and we learned it when we privatized library data, and sooner than later, we’ll learn it with Google.

And yes, I’m holding off on comparing Google to a library software company recently in the news for its draconian personnel policies — because others wrote that story for me. (It’s funny how LJ’s correction only dug the hole deeper: “Oh, only TWO years! I feel SO much better!”)

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