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Administration & Programs

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, is expected to 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, 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 Complutense of Madrid, and the National Library of Catalonia along with four affiliate Catalonian libraries.

The project is dramatically increasing 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. 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 is enabling both members of the Harvard community and users everywhere to discover works in the Harvard collection. Harvard users can find and retrieve books in the Harvard Library more efficiently. Users elsewhere can 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 receives a digital copy to use in a variety of ways that can advance its educational and scholarly mission over time. The presence of these digital copies can also 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.

Eventually, Harvard 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.

Implementation of the Harvard–Google Project is a Harvard-wide collaborative effort involving libraries and library staff across the University, with management, leadership, and overall coordination provided by key staff members in the University Library’s Office for Information Systems.

According to Sidney Verba, "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.”