Harvard University Library


Harvard-Google Project

The Harvard University Library and Google are collaborating on a project to digitize a large number of Harvard's library books that are out of copyright and to make them available to Internet users. The project, which is one of several collaborations between Google and major research libraries, could bring millions of works to the web.

Building on a successful pilot conducted by Harvard and Google throughout 2005, the project combines the skills and library collections of Harvard University with the innovative search skills and capacity of Google. The Harvard-Google Project will benefit students and scholars wherever they are. Google has launched related projects with Oxford, Stanford, Princeton, the University of California, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the University of Michigan, the University of Virginia, the University of Texas at Austin, the New York Public Library, the University Library of Lausanne, the Bavarian State Library, the University Complutense of Madrid, and the National Library of Catalonia along with four affiliate Catalonian libraries.

The project will dramatically increase Internet access to the holdings of the Harvard University Library, which, as the largest academic library in the world, includes more than 15.8 million volumes, both in and out of copyright, in approximately 80 physical locations. While physical access to Harvard's library materials generally is restricted to current Harvard students, faculty, and researchers, or to scholars who can come to Cambridge, the Harvard-Google Project will enable both members of the Harvard community and users everywhere to discover works in the Harvard collection. Harvard users will be able to find and retrieve books in the Harvard Library more efficiently. Users elsewhere will be able to discover books that they might not otherwise find, to locate booksellers or local libraries where desired books might be available, to read out-of-copyright books online, and to print out copies.

For each out-of-copyright work that Google scans from its collections, Harvard will receive a digital copy to use in a variety of ways that advance its educational and scholarly mission. Libraries are unique in their charge not only to acquire, organize, and disseminate information, but also to preserve it for future generations. The presence of these digital copies can help to ensure that the intellectual content of these works—many of which are aging and fragile—would remain available in cases of unforeseen decay or catastrophic situations such as fire.

Over time, Harvard also intends to use the digital copy of these public-domain works in its teaching and research activities, which increasingly take place in a digital environment. Through its Library Digital Initiative, Harvard has developed a technical infrastructure to acquire, store, and deliver a wide range of digital library materials to library users. The University expects eventually to integrate digital copies of the books scanned by Google into that infrastructure and to extend its capabilities. This is a large and challenging undertaking, but in due course should yield substantial benefits for education and research.

Notwithstanding the benefits of having digital copies, the Harvard University Library remains committed to the preservation, stewardship, and continued growth of its physical library collections. The digital copies will not supplant books, but rather will facilitate and complement their use.

According to Sidney Verba, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the University Library, "The Harvard-Google Project links the search power of the Internet to the depth of knowledge in Harvard's world-renowned libraries. Harvard has been collecting books for nearly four centuries. Among our out-of-copyright books are countless unique copies, unusual editions, and neglected or forgotten works. Our efforts with Google will bring about the broad dissemination of the knowledge contained in those books and, with it, significant information about the world views that those books represent.

"It is our hope," Verba states, "that the project also can one day make in-copyright works searchable on the Internet. By working with Google, Harvard is furthering an essential aspect of the University Library's mission, which is to serve scholars around the world."

For more information about the Harvard libraries, visit http://hul.harvard.edu.


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Harvard's affiliation with Google is one of several related projects with major research libraries, including:

The New York Public Library

Oxford University

Stanford University

Princeton University

University of Michigan

University of California

University of Wisconsin–Madison

University of Virginia

University of Texas at Austin

University Library of Lausanne

Bavarian State Library

University Complutense of Madrid

National Library of Catalonia

Google Book Search