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December 14, 2004

Google/U-M project opens the way to universal access to information


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ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Google and the University of Michigan today (Tuesday) announced a joint agreement that will add the 7 million volumes in the U-M library to the Google search engine and open the way to universal access to information.

“We are exhilarated to join a partnership with Google that perfectly advances our   mission as a great public university to share knowledge within the academic community and far beyond it,” said U-M President Mary Sue Coleman. “This project signals an era when the printed record of civilization is accessible to every person in the world with Internet access. It is an initiative with tremendous impact today and endless future possibilities.”

Google will digitally scan and make searchable virtually the entire collection of the U-M library. A person looking for information will gain the extraordinary capability to use Google to locate and read the full text of printed works that are out of copyright. For works in copyright, a search will point the way to the existence of relevant volumes by returning a snippet of text, along with information that identifies publishers or libraries where the work can be found.

The Harlan Hatcher graduate library is largest of 20 libraries in the University Library System.

“By placing the great works of the past on the Internet, this endeavor helps ensure that the texts that have informed the development of thought and human understanding throughout recorded history will continue to do so,” said Provost Paul N. Courant. “The fundamental mechanism of scholarship, making new ideas out of what is known or believed, will be more broadly available than ever before.”

The University Library will receive and own a high quality digital copy of the materials digitized by Google. With ownership of these materials, the University will be able to provide access to the content in ways that are consistent with its mission as a great public university.  For example, U-M may choose to enhance the ability for a patron to use material that is out of copyright, including creating reprints and downloadable text.   Some degree of access to the copyrighted material will also be possible, and will be done within the limitations of copyright law. These forms of access will transform the way faculty, as well as students, carry out research.

“Libraries have long played a critical role in connecting users with the ideas and voices of scholars throughout time,” said William Gosling, University Librarian.   “This partnership with Google affords us the opportunity to chart new methods of bringing these resources and the expertise of the Library to the academic community and as a public good to a broader user population.   It is an exciting project that will benefit our users in direct and transformative ways.”

U-M brings to the partnership a collection of great size and breadth and a position as one of the nation’s leaders in digital preservation. The U-M Library is the sixth largest in the country, and its digital collection of roughly 22,000 volumes also is one of the most ambitious in the country. Notable is the Making of America Collection, a thematically related digital library of more than 9,000 volumes that documents American social history from the antebellum period through Reconstruction. (http://www.hti.umich.edu/m/moagrp/) At its current rate of digital production, however, it would take the University more than a thousand years to digitize the 7 million volumes in the collection. Google plans to do the job in a matter of years.

Google also has entered into agreements with Harvard University, Stanford University, Oxford University and the New York Public Library.

In making the announcement, the University of Michigan noted that it is an institution that creates, uses, and distributes all sorts of copyrighted works, and as such cares deeply about copyright issues from all aspects. “This project is consistent with the very purpose of copyright law as reflected in the U.S. Constitution, to promote the advancement and dissemination of knowledge,” Coleman said.

The project addresses several issues posed by the fact that the Internet now serves as a primary source of information inside and outside the academic community. Most of today’s online content was “born digital,” and often cannot be verified. By contrast, library materials that will become available through Google originate from fully-identified authoritative sources, and cover every conceivable topic since the advent of printing. To ensure permanent preservation, digitized materials are saved in formats that can be supported by many different software programs on a variety of platforms. Files are stored redundantly on several servers to ensure a greater likelihood of survival.

For more information and examples, visit http://print.google.com/library.

 

 

Contact: Nancy Connell
Phone: (734) 764-7260
E-mal: nconnell@umich.edu