For Smart Answers, Ask Gary Price

By Grossman, David | Searcher, June 2006 | Go to article overview
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For Smart Answers, Ask Gary Price


Grossman, David, Searcher


Every seat is filled. People are standing in the back of the room and spilling into the aisles. On the stage, a soft-spoken, bespectacled man talks about Web sites, search engines, and databases. The audience is completely silent. Everyone is feverishly taking notes, trying to keep up with the flow of URL, wiki, and blog allusions.

This is the scene time and again when Gary Price addresses an audience of librarians and other information professionals. He has been described as a "search engine evangelist," an expert on data searching, "ubiquitous and inexhaustible," and the guru of Internet research. He always performs to sell-out crowds and never disappoints. Like a rock star, his groupies follow him wherever he goes, lusting for yet another "gem" to add to their growing lists of Web sites, databases, and other information tools they can use in their jobs.

"Gary Price" was the first name out of everyone's mouth when they heard that I was writing about the future of librarians. "You have to write about Gary Price" was the cry I heard repeated over and over again.

Returning to the information field after a long hiatus, I suddenly became aware of this legendary sage of the online world. I wondered how long this renowned figure had been spewing out nuggets of wisdom upon the library populace. He seemed like an institution with a well-established presence in the chaotic world of ever-changing information sources.

It surprised me to learn that this guru of electronic information had only been sharing his secrets with the library world through his ResourceShelf.com Web site, newsletters and personal appearances for the past 5 years. It made me wonder: How does one go from humble library beginnings to celebrity status in such a short time? I had to find out.

"I've always been fascinated with libraries and information, and this goes back to my earliest days, way before Google, way before the Internet." Price admits, "I've always loved reference books."

The Leap of Faith

Price earned his M.L.I.S. degree in 1995 at Wayne State University and became a reference librarian at George Washington University (GW). But Price wanted more than just an obscure role as an academic librarian. "I wanted to get my name out there in the profession." So he took his show on the road and began speaking about online reference sources. "By the time 5 years ended, it got to the point where I was never at work." Price was always speaking or doing something else. His employer gave him an ultimatum. They would support some outside activities, but wanted him to remain working in the library more often.

"So I took a leap of faith and went at it on my own," Price says. In March 2001, he began The Resource Shelf, a Web site [http:// www.resourceshelf.com; RSS feed at http://www.resourceshelf.com/re sourceshelf.xml] and daily blog that provide information on online information sources. "It was started as a way for me to promote myself," he explains. The Resource Shelf was designed to keep information professionals up-to-date with news in the library profession and to inform his colleagues of new resources available on the rapidly expanding Web. Following the success of The Resource Shelf, Price also started DocuTicker [http://www.docuticker. com; RSS feed at http://www.docu ticker.com/docuticker.xml] in 2004, another Web site and blog that focus primarily on government documents. Price envisions these reference sites as "just another new bookshelf in the library."

But it didn't stop there. Price became editor of Search Engine Watch, co-authored a book with Chris Sherman called The Invisible Web, compiled another invaluable online reference source called Price's List of Lists and then still another called Direct Search. He even taught a course in journalism research at the University of North Carolina. In 2002, Price won the Special Libraries Association (SLA) "Innovations in Technology Award" and the SLA News Division's Agnes Henebry Roll of Honor Award" in 2004.

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For Smart Answers, Ask Gary Price
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