The latest issue of Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology includes an article by Anna Lauren Hoffman (University of California, Berkeley) and Raina Bloom (University of Wisconsin, Madison) that examines the Google Books project “using the gendered history of librarianship” as a critical lens. The full abstract is reproduced below.
Hoffman, Lauren, and Raina Bloom. “Digitizing Books, Obscuring Women’s Work: Google Books, Librarians, and Ideologies of Access.” Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology no. 9 (2016).
From a broad historical and cultural standpoint, Google Books concerns the imposition of ideals of technological rationality and efficiency typical of search engine technology onto entire collections of recorded human knowledge. As a large-scale information infrastructure, it radically reorganizes relations between the technologies, institutions, and individuals that work to preserve, organize, and make available the world’s library collections. These activities have historically involved a wide range of actors, chief among them librarians. Here, the authors challenge the dominant narrative of Google Books and the ideology of access it embodies by surfacing an alternative account that foregrounds the gendered history of librarianship. In doing so, the authors identify a different way to consider and perform the notion of access to information, one that carefully considers the ways in which education, service, and community are absent from Google’s ideology of access and what we stand to lose through failing to note their absence.