The folks at Google keep finding new ways to earn my love and devotion. First it was with the announcement of Google Scholar and now it’s with the announcement that they have reached agreements to scan books from five major libraries so they’ll be accessible online to anyone, anywhere. One of the libraries to be scanned will be the University of Michigan—one of only two libraries to make it’s entire collection available to Google—the others include the New York public library, Harvard, Stanford and Oxford in England.
“It’s a significant opportunity to bring our material to the rest of the world,” said Paul LeClerc, president of the New York Public Library. “It could solve an old problem: If people can’t get to us, how can we get to them?”
Librarians are also excited about the prospect of creating a digital record for the reams of valuable material written long before computers were conceived.
“This is the day the world changes,” said John Wilkin, a University of Michigan librarian working with Google. “It will be disruptive because some people will worry that this is the beginning of the end of libraries. But this is something we have to do to revitalize the profession and make it more meaningful.”
Scanning of U of M’s 7 million volumes is expected to take 6 years just by itself and volumes that are still under copyright will only be partially accessible until they pass into the public domain. Of course anything currently in the public domain will be fully accessible through Google and the index will be included in the same index currently covering web pages. This is a big project and it carries some big questions along with it so it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out over the long term.