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Web Search and Libraries

I just reviewed the Lycos list of their most popular search terms from 1995-2005 released in celebration of their 10th anniversary. Here’s the (September 1995-September 2005):
Rank Search Term
1 Pam Anderson
2 Dragonball
3 Pokemon
4 Britney Spears
6 Tattoos
7 Las Vegas
9 September 11
10 Christmas
11 Princess Diana
12 Jennifer Lopez
13 The Bible
14 Halloween
15 The IRS
16 ‘N Sync
17 Final Fantasy
18 Star Wars
19 Backstreet Boys
20 Marijuana
22 Baseball
23 Anna Kournikova
24 Janet Jackson
25 Golf
26 OJ Simpson
27 NBA
28 Tupac
29 Harry Potter
30 The Simpsons
31 Sailor Moon
32 Eminem
33 JonBenet Ramsey
34 Selena
35 Mariah Carey
36 Carmen Electra
37 Howard Stern
39 Christina Aguilera
40 War in Iraq
41 KaZaA
42 Osama bin Laden
43 Madonna
44 Oprah Winfrey
45 Poker
46 Diets
47 Nostradamus
48 Napster
49 JFK Jr. & Carolyn Bessette
50 Star Trek
Source: Lycos, 2005
Now I ask you, do we need any greater proof that the questions asked in libraries or through our OPACs, portals, and licensed resources are different in a fundamental way?
These ‘most popular search’ lists always generate press and interest in what the world is interested in. How about offering (sanitized just like Lycos)lists of the most popular online searches at the local library to the local press? This could make it clear the wide range of help – homework, life, health, culture – on a ongoing basis. Just an idea.
(Still happy that the #1 search continues to be a Canadian!)


Posted on: September 25, 2005, 10:40 pm Category: Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. steven bell said

    The list is interesting but not surprising because our culture is obsessed with celebrities, entertainment, and get rich quick schemes. This list in no way reflects the questions I hear or the searches I see. Now my perspective comes from what I hear and see in my academic library, but in their dorm rooms I suspect the students are searching for information on poker or Pam Andersen. So I’m not sure you can use the list to say “Hmm, search needs are really changing and it’s finding its way into our resource and services”. I’d be more inclined to say the two are divided. Now, in a public library that offers access for those who have no access at home, there the case may be more like what you are describing. But I think even non-sophisticated patrons would know you would use a search engine for information on tattoos or marijuana, but use the catalog to find a good biography on Pam Andersen or Selena. Again it brings us back to the importance of user education – use all the available options – but know when each is best suited for a particular information need.

  2. I think that some of the most fundamental search terms include “Google”, “Yahoo”, and “Ebay”. These terms are right at the top of the charts when it comes to sheer numbers of searches. I do agree, however, with your viewpoint that entertainment celebrities command a very competitve popularity among internet searchers. Entertainment popularity is just phenomenal in relation to many other topics, such as even high-tech topics.