U of California Joins Google Library Project

It’s been in the air ever since a campus newspaper broke the story – but now it’s official. Another library is partnering with Google to add library books to Google Book Search.

Like the University of Michigan, UC intends to include in-copyright books. In the official press release, Brian Schottlaender, University Librarian at UC San Diego, makes a case for storing a copy digitally that has overtones of Doublefold-style alarm bells.

“Tens of thousands of volumes entrusted to our care are printed on acid-rich paper and are crumbling into dust. In fact, all our holdings are chronically at risk, residing as they do in seismically unstable California.”

“Anyone who doubts the potential impact that natural disaster can have, need look no further than the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina on our sister libraries in Louisiana and Mississippi. Digital copies tucked away safely in a preservation archive would have saved those libraries — and indeed, the world — from irrecoverable loss.”

But a more positive case is made for joining the project.

“The academic enterprise is fundamentally about discovery,” said John Oakley, chair of UC’s systemwide Academic Senate and a UC Davis law professor. “We contribute to it immeasurably by unlocking the wealth of information maintained within our libraries and exposing it to the latest that search technologies have to offer.

“In this new world, our faculty, staff and students will make connections between information and ideas that were hitherto inaccessible, driving the pace of scholarly innovation, and enhancing the use that is made of our great libraries.”

Though UC already is participating in the Open Content Alliance, a collaboration that includes Yahoo and the Internet Archive, a story in the LA Times points out two reasons to join the Google project as well: it will scan in-copyright books and promises to move ahead much more quickly.

And then there’s another possible motivator that Tom Peters alludes to in his excellent round-up in ALA TechSource: simply longing to be part of the exclusive G5.

About Barbara Fister

I'm an academic librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. Like all librarians at our small, liberal arts institution I am involved in reference, collection development, and shared management of the library. My area of specialization is instruction, with research interests also in media literacy, popular literacy, publishing, and assessment.

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