Monday, October 13, 2008

University Libraries in Google Project to Offer Backup Digital Library

An article in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education discusses an initiative by a group of university libraries that are partnering with Google in Google’s Book Search project to digitize millions of the world’s books. Excerpt from article:

A group of major universities has been quietly working for the past two years to build one of the largest online collections of books ever assembled, by pooling the millions of volumes that Google has scanned in its partnership with university libraries.

One of the most important functions of the project, say its leaders, who plan to unveil the giant library today, is to create a stable backup of the digital books should Google go bankrupt or lose interest in the book-searching business.

The project is called HathiTrust, and so far it consists of the members of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, a consortium of the 11 universities in the Big Ten Conference and the University of Chicago, and the 10 campuses in the University of California system. The University of Virginia is joining the project, it will be announced today, and officials hope to bring in other colleges as well.

Each university library originally planned to manage the digital copies of the scanned books on its own, but through HathiTrust, library officials are now working together to create a shared online collection. . . .

Already HathiTrust contains the full text of more than two million books scanned by Google.

But there is an important catch. Because most of the millions of books are still under copyright protection, the libraries cannot offer the full text of the books to people off their campuses, though they can reveal details like how many pages of a given volume contain any passage that a user searches for. . . .

The librarians have already added one feature that some library leaders have been calling on Google to provide—a better sense of exactly what is in the collection. Google has refused to release such details, but HathiTrust publishes online a list, updated daily, of what is in its collection.

The librarians plan to work together to create new services to search and display the digital books that Google might not provide for its copies.

Click here for full article.

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