Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Meet Ms. Dewey

The horoscope in today's newspaper for people born on this date (that's me!) says that I "delight in whimsical experiences," but that doesn't explain why I just found myself trying out a most unusual search engine. Library Journal publishes a quarterly supplement called Netconnect, and I make it a point to try to teach this old dog some new tricks each time I read about all the new technology and web whizzbangs. Some of the things I read about are fun to try, though not really useful in serving our patrons, but sometimes I find something worthy of a second look.

Let me introduce you to Ms. Dewey, a Microsoft search engine experiment featuring a sassy librarian (?) who'll take your questions. Type your search in the box at the bottom of the screen, and Ms. Dewey will "think" about the answer until a list of results appears on the right side of the screen. While she thinks, she might read a magazine or make a cellphone call or shoot a rubber band at you. If you take too long to type your question or select something from the results list, she'll roll her eyes, cross her arms, and tap on the screen to see if you're still there. It's worth it to make her wait just to see how impatient she gets. This lady definitely has an attitude.

Now I'm not advocating Ms. Dewey as a customer service model for public libraries. Far from it!! We're much more patient and professional. This isn't the best search engine on the market, but for the three test searches I tried, I got results from reliable .edu, .gov, and .org sites right near the top of the list. The results display could be more readable and scroll more easily. The response is a little slow, but Ms. Dewey is fun to watch while you're waiting. So if you'd like to have a chuckle while doing a subject search, try Ms. Dewey. Just duck when she shoots the rubber band.

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