Thursday, June 17, 2010

Large Gift Will Speed Digitization at Oxford's Bodleian Libraries

News item from Ian Wilhelm in yesterday's Chronicle of Higher Education:
A British philanthropist has given $2.2-million to the University of Oxford's Bodleian Libraries to expand efforts to digitize their vast collection of books and manuscripts.

The gift, by the businessman Leonard S. Polonsky, will help pay for a new digital-imaging studio as part of a $115.6-million renovation of the New Bodleian Library, which will be known as the Weston Library upon reopening in a few years. The facility will be used to scan and make available online Oxford's most valuable and fragile documents and publications.

In addition, the donation will support the Bodleian's current efforts to digitize materials that promote interdisciplinary research and scholarship. For example, in 2010 and 2011 the library system plans to digitize Oxford theses and rare Islamic and Jewish manuscripts.

The money will help the Bodleian give humanities scholars and other academics greater access to its 11-million volume collection, only a "small fraction" of which has been digitized so far, said Sarah E. Thomas, the institution's librarian.

Mr. Polonsky, an alumnus of Oxford's Lincoln College, made a similar gift this month to the Cambridge University Library. The donor, who is executive chairman of Hansard Global, a financial-services company, said in a written statement that being part of a sea change in how a library operates was "exhilarating."

"Our inherited notions of 'library'—its architecture, scale, content, and services—will undergo quite extraordinary change over the coming years as digitization extends its impact," he said.