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A Letter from Sidney Verba

December 13, 2004

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing today with news of an exciting new project within the Harvard libraries. As all of us know, Harvard's is the world's preeminent university library. Its holdings of over 15 million volumes are the result of nearly four centuries of thoughtful and comprehensive collecting. While those holdings are of primary importance to Harvard students and faculty, we have, for several years, been considering ways to make the collections more useful and accessible to scholars around the world. Now we are about to begin a project that can further that global goal—and, at the same time, can greatly enhance access to Harvard's vast library resources for our students and faculty.

We have agreed to a pilot project that will result in the digitization of a substantial number of volumes from the Harvard libaries. The pilot will give the University a great deal of important data on a possible future large-scale digitization program for most of the books in the Harvard collections. The pilot is a small but extremely singificant first step that can ultimately provide both the Harvard community and the larger public with a revolutionary new information location tool to find materials available in libraries.

The pilot project will be done in collaboration with Google. The project will link Harvard's library collections with Google's resources and its cutting-edge technology. The pilot project, which will be announced officially tomorrow, is the result of more than a year of careful consultation at many levels of the University. We could not have achieved a meaningful pilot project without the efforts of the Harvard Corporation; the President, Provost, Chief Information Officer, and Office of General Counsel; the University Library Council; and senior managers within the College Library and the University Library.

A full description of the pilot program and an FAQ are available here.

With best regards,

Sidney Verba
Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the University Library


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