Short and Sweet: Use Google Well

“Do you know what that symbol means on the back of that car?”

I was riding with a friend who pointed to a 2” square sticker on the trunk of the black Lexus in front of us. “I’ve been seeing it around and I wondering.”


He might have been asking because he knows I’m a university librarian and seem just to know stuff, which is often true. In this case it wasn’t because I didn’t. But my professional intuition did kick in and I pulled out my smartphone.

“It shouldn’t be too difficult to find out.” “It’s just a symbol, though. There are no keywords to use for searching,” he observed. My friend is an allergist, i.e., a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies. He’s a smart guy. But information science (as it’s related to library research) isn’t just about smart. It’s about knowledge and experience. And my professional abilities expose me to a lot of different kinds of searching that distinctly shape my knowledge and experience.

“It looks like a trident,” I observed. “And if it looks like one to me then there’s a good chance it did to someone else too who used it to search and got an answer.”

“So use ‘trident bumper sticker’?” He wondered aloud? “Precisely what I was about to do.” I went at it.

“Ukraine. It’s the symbol in the center of the Ukrainian flag.” I found the answer in seconds by using the Images link in Google’s search results page. Upon further searching, in fact, I learned the Ukrainian flag only has 2 fields of blue and yellow with no trident. The trident is associated with the Ukraine. The image I found of the flag was someone’s proposal, but the association was clear. Given the large eastern European population in Philadelphia and its suburbs, it seemed plain that the driver was wearing his national pride.


(Ukraine Flag)

It helps, of course, to have the proper vocabulary when doing searches. But I could have started with the fact that it looks like that ‘3-pointed fork thing that Neptune has’. Google would have given me the word trident and then I could have done the next search.

That’s the heart of my search strategy. Use Google for what it does well: combine plain language with formal terminology and concepts. Then use the newly-discovered terminology and concepts to do better searching. It’s a set up for finding scholarly articles in an article database or for understanding bumper stickers.

Ostkrieg. Ukraine Trident Bumper Sticker. n.d. Zazzle Inc. Zazzle, Accessed 13 May 2019.

Ukraine Flag. n.d. Federal Flags, Accessed 13 May 2019.

Copyright Disclaimer: These images are used in accordance with the Fair Use statute of US Copyright Law on the basis of the purpose of this blogpost, the factual nature of the images, and the minimal impact on the market for the original works. The author claims no copyright ownership over them.

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