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I agree with your comparison of reference services and open web research in terms of quality and access. Academic libraries can provide higher calibre resources from verified authors/publishers, but may struggle to impart vital corroboration and evaluation tools to users who are used to covering a lot of information with little consideration to its source. You favour the adaptation of modern reference work to benefit from the global network of information and I wonder how this might be achieved. The ‘cited by’ search of Google Scholar comes to mind and I assume something similar is already used in libraries. This service allows the user to search for articles which have referenced a particular item. The results are often more specific than the former article as they are building on previous research. I think this tool is also useful for corroborating particular research or opinions. Such a reference tool would have been difficult to create before the reach of the internet and connection of information from across the globe. It is also quick and easy to conduct – ideal for the modern user who must swiftly assess whether a source will be useful or not.
Thanks for your insight!