Getting To Know the Invisible Web

Abstract: Smith explains why some of the web is invisible to search engines. He offers techniques for searching the invisible web, as well as books and web sites containing additional strategies. Comparing standard print references to invisible web sources, he lists sites that are particularly effective for locating “invisible” information online.


A helpful directory for searching the invisible web is available at:

Smith highlights the value of the invisible web for reference. It is an argument somewhat similar to that made in favor of for-fee databases: these sources are often more edited and, thus, more reliable. And, yes, librarians certainly should add major “standards” of online reference (like the Librarians’ Internet Index) to their reference toolbox and their memory.

However, librarians should also be working with vendors and users in this filtering endeavor. We should share these toolboxes with end-users (perhaps through Web 2.0 social bookmarking sites). We should also work with vendors to make the invisible web more visible through shared standards: to our mutual benefit.  Even as we would benefit from a  more user-friendly and fully-indexed Web, vendors would have more people likely to pay for their content if a relevant snippet were pulled up on, say, Google Scholar.

Smith, C. Brian. (2001). Getting To Know the Invisible Web. Library Journal, 126(11), 16. Retrieved September 2, 2008, from from Academic Search Complete database.