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Search Engine Bias

Library Search Engines

It is easy to assume that library search engines are incapable of bias, but computers are made by humans. Consequently, human bias has crept into search engines, and this can impact the results that users see when conducting library searches.

Alien vs. Aliens

A search for "alien" returns results related to illegal immigrants:



A search for "aliens" returns results pertaining to extraterrestrial beings:

Examples of Bias Related to Music

A search for "Black music," which could contain results for African music, Caribbean Music, or any other type of music, assumes that Black music equates to African American music.

Techniques to Overcome Bias

Bias can be overcome with the use of limiters.

For example, a search for "American folk music," which returns mostly results focusing on music by White musicians, can be refined by filtering the subject on the left side of the page:

Clicking "show more" at the bottom of the subject filters reveals options for "blues music," and though not shown here, options for jazz, country, and rock as well. Thus, these limiters can help overcome this bias.

If you encounter bias in our search engine, let a library staff member know! Change can be slow, but we can take steps to gradually influence change.