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Jan. 19, 2004

U-M expands access to its collections via the Internet

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The University of Michigan's University Library has established an online collection of more than 20,000 volumes, the beginning of a significant turning point in the creation of digital libraries.

The Digital General Collection represents the start of U-M's efforts to develop a comprehensive body of library material through a systematic digital preservation program. The Digital General Collection is freely available on the Internet and is expected to grow at a rate of 3,000 or more volumes per year.

The University Library has long had one of the world's leading preservation and conservation efforts and since 2002 has begun a shift to digital reformatting as the preferred technology over microfilm or photocopy for preserving brittle books.

The library works to preserve the intellectual content of items in a manner that facilitates and promotes use. The convenience of access to digital files, as well as the added benefits of full-text searching, makes digital reformatting immediately attractive as an alternative to microfilm or photocopying.

"The Preservation Division had confidence in both the durability and reliability of digital capture as a preservation medium and in the Library's digital infrastructure as sufficiently secure such that digital documents produced and maintained by the library were stable and lasting," said Phelix Hanible, Michigan's associate University librarian for technical and access services. Hanible says that since the implementation of this new practice, the Preservation Division has scanned nearly two million pages to preserve and provide Web access to the library's collections.

As part of the Digital General Collection, these volumes begin to introduce something of the serendipitous flavor of a conventional library collection. "While five years ago a savvy library user could keep mental track of significant digital projects in an area of study, that is unlikely today and will be quite impossible in two or three more years," said Mark Sandler, the library's collection development officer. "With millions of books, journals, and websites now available, and more added each day, we need to apply the traditional techniques of libraries for managing large and diverse collections, as opposed to trying to lead readers to subject specific 'silos' or reading rooms that they have to know exist."

The Digital General Collection builds on U-M's history of extending its rich collections beyond the campus. Beginning with the Humanities Text Initiative and the Making of America, the University Library has worked to provide rich and valuable resources that are freely available to the world.

"The Digital General Collection is a major step forward in the mission of this great research library," said U-M's University Librarian William Gosling. "Unfettered access to such a diverse and extensive set of materials will undoubtedly have tremendous impact on the intellectual life of peoples throughout the world, as well as in the educational experience of our students and the citizens of our state."

The Digital General Collection can be accessed at http://www.hti.umich.edu/g/genpub/.

For more information, visit http://www.lib.umich.edu/

Contact: Joanne Nesbit
Phone: (734) 647-4418
E-mail: mjnesbit@umich.edu