2007年06月23日

The Google Five Libraries: Two Years, Six Months, and Seven Days in the Life of Google Library Project

PLA Blog
The Google Five Libraries: Two Years, Six Months, and Seven Days in the Life of Google Library Project
Saturday, June 23rd, 2007 by Rick Roche


Is there no downside to being a library partner in the Google Library Project? Until pressed by members of the audience, the five-member panel only admitted it was a lot of work and the lawsuits were annoying. The panelists all seemed almost unconcerned that they really do not know what the ramifications of the project are.

The meeting began with a bit of history. In December 2004, when Google was rolling out lots of products, it announced Google Print, a project to make full texts available for reading and printing from the web. Within weeks the company also announced that it had agreements with five large libraries to digitize their printed materials and make them searchable on the web. Many librarians thought the idea was great, but publishers and authors objected. The upset parties filed lawsuits against Google and the libraries. In Fall 2005 the project was renamed Google Books.

Adam Smith, the Product Management Director of the Google Book Search summed up the status of the project. As of June 2007, there are 25 libraries providing are scheduled to join the project, whose goal is making searching books as easy as searching the web. He also said that around 10,000 publishers had signed on to provide content at differing levels. Some have full texts, some sample pages, and others snippets with keywords. He said that Google Book Search had been integrated with Google Universal Search, and showed that special “About This Book” pages combining metadata, reviews, book backgrounds, and library holdings are being added to Google Book Search.

The five libraries are Harvard, University of Michigan, New York Public, Stanford, and Oxford University’s Bodleian. Their panelists indicated that libraries themselves had differing objectives, but all admitted they signed on because they were failing to digitize at fast enough rate before Google made its tempting offer. Though the number of items digitized to date is being treated like an industry secret, they all claim that they are much farther along than before the web giant stepped in.

The obvious benefit for the five is items are being made digitally available. There are many side benefits. The work has forced the libraries to pull out seldom used materials. They have discovered items that were never catalogued or added to online database. The Bodleian even discovered many books whose pages had never been cut. They have to varying degrees discovered how damaged their books are by time and usage. (Brittle and breaking spine items are not being scanned.) They are getting new ideas for bibliographic description and finding new ways to share their resources.

Several of the panelists said that Google Book Search is sparking requests for materials in a way that being part of other online catalogs never did. This is where public libraries benefit. Because full texts are searchable, subjects are being found in books that researches had never considered.

The program became more interesting when the audience began its questions. Some of the project disappointments began to be revealed. Much was made of the limitations of sticking only to public domain known items for digitization. To be safe, several of the libraries have stuck to pre-1923 books. One speaker said that many 1923-1964 books are now in the public domain but no one knows what titles, as no one has ever reported on copyrights not renewed. The University of Michigan has a team now systematically checking 1923-1964 copyright renewals. It is estimated if these books can be identified, the body of public domain items will double.

The panelist also admitted that the quality of the digital documents is not good enough to be considered preservation. The goal is just to make the items searchable on the web. At this, the project is successful already. What lies ahead is uncertain. One panelist said that until much copyrighted material can also be added and open for reading and printing, the project is not really complete.

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