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Harvard's Digitization Project with Google
Harvard Libraries and Google Announce Pilot Digitization Project with Potential Benefits to Scholars Worldwide
December 14, 2004
Harvard University is embarking on a collaboration with Google that could harness Google's search technology to provide to both the Harvard community and the larger public a revolutionary new information location tool to find materials available in libraries. In the
coming months, Google will collaborate with Harvard's libraries on a pilot project to
digitize a substantial number of the 15 million volumes held in the University's
extensive library system. Google will provide online access to the full
text of those works that are in the public domain. In related agreements, Google will launch similar projects with Oxford, Stanford, the University of Michigan, and the New York Public Library. An FAQ detailing the Harvard pilot program with Google is available at http://hul.harvard.edu and on the Harvard home page.
The Harvard pilot will provide the information and experience on which the
University can base a decision to launch a large-scale digitization
program. Any such decision will reflect the fact that Harvard's library
holdings are among the University's core assets, that the magnitude of
those holdings is unique among university libraries anywhere in the world,
and that the stewardship of these holdings is of paramount importance. If
the pilot is deemed successful, Harvard will explore a long-term program
with Google through which the vast majority of the University's library
books would be digitized and included in Google's searchable database.
Google will bear the direct costs of digitization in the pilot project.
By combining the skills and library collections of Harvard University with
the innovative search skills and capacity of Google, a long-term program
has the potential to create an important public
good. According to Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers, "Harvard has the
greatest university library in the world. If this experiment is successful,
we have the potential to provide the world's greatest system for
dissemination as well."
In addition, there would be special benefits to the Harvard community.
Plans call for the eventual
development of a link allowing Google users at Harvard to connect directly
to the online HOLLIS (Harvard Online Library Information System) catalog for information on the location and
availability at Harvard of works identified through a Google search. This
would merge the search capacity of the Internet with the deep research
Harvard into one seamless resourcea development especially important
for undergraduates who often see the library and the Internet as
alternative and perhaps rival sources of information.
Eventually, Harvard users would benefit from far better access to the 5
million books located at the Harvard Depository (HD). If the University
undertakes the long-term program, Harvard users would gain online access to
the full text of out-of-copyright books stored at HD. For books still in
copyright, Harvard users could gain the ability to search for small
snippets of text and, possibly, to view tables of contents. In short, the
Harvard student or faculty member would gain some of the advantages of
browsing that remote storage of books at HD cannot currently provide.
According to Sidney Verba, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and
Director of the University Library, "The possibility of a large-scale
digitization of Harvard's library books does not in any way diminish the
University's commitment to the collection and preservation of books as
physical objects. The digital copy will not be a substitute for the books
themselves. We will continue actively to acquire materials in all formats
and we will continue to conserve them. In fact, as part of the pilot we are
developing criteria for identifying books that are too fragile for
digitizing and for selecting them out of the project.
"It is clear," Verba continued, "that the new century presents unparalleled
challenges and opportunities to Harvard's libraries. Our pilot program with
Google can prove to be a vital and revealing first step in a lengthy and
rewarding process that will benefit generations of
scholars and others."
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