Wednesday, June 4, 2008

University Libraries and Google: Should They Work Together?

Boston College has been participating in a project to digitize some of its books and make them available for free on the web. Its partners are the member libraries of the Boston Library Consortium and the Open Content Alliance. The libraries provide the books and OCA provides the scanners and staff. This project has been contrasted with the more widely known Google digitizing project involving a number of major research universities including Harvard, Stanford, the University of Michigan, the University of Oxford, and The New York Public Library. The reason why BLC libraries went with OCA and not Google has much to do with the business nature of Google's interest in digitizing books.

Last November, the University Librarian and Dean of Libraries at the University of Michigan, Paul Courant, defended his institution's involvement with Google. A November 27, 2007 entry on the Ars Technica blog gives a good summary of the debate. Here's an excerpt from that posting:
This particular debate, which has been raging in various forms for the last two years, is driven in part by the tremendous sense of what's at stake. Book search projects like the one undertaken by Google have huge potential to transform public access to books and archival material, especially now that Google has broadened its program to include French-language texts and texts from India.

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