The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition - Fall 2005 - 5C
PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY MIKE HULSEBUS/Daily
The University will become one of the few universities in the country to have its library collection available online.
By Karl Stampfl
Daily Staff Writer
Soon anyone will be able to browse the University
library, whether he is in Ann Arbor or Europe or anywhere
The University announced a partnership with Google in
which the Internet search engine will digitally scan all Uni-
versity books and other media and make them available to
anyone worldwide with an Internet connection. Plans are in
place to convert all 7 million items in the University library
collection into digital form and place them online in about
Users will be able to search the collection by phrases and
keywords. If the relevant material is currently under copyright,
users will be able to view three snippets per work. Snippets
consist of the sentence where the match occurs and the sen-
tences before and after. The user can then determine whether
the work is valuable to them and, if it is, find a copy.
If the material is not under copyright, users will be able to
view the text from cover to cover.
"Suppose in the second edition of John Stuart Mill's
essays there was a particular twist no one has seen for 50
years - that's in our library," Provost Paul Courant said.
"But the value is not the particular documents, it's that you
can search this huge library."
He added that in the age of the Internet, if things can't be
found online, people do not bother to find them, especially
among the younger generation. "Now they will be able to,"
Google will shoulder the entire cost of converting the mate-
rials, said John Price Wilkin, associate University librarian.
"I think what it's going to do is give Google a significant
advantage in providing information content," Wilkin said.
Google has already started the project and it can scan an
average of 5,000 University items a year. By the time the pro-
gram is in its most advanced state, Google plans to scan more
than one million items per year.
Previously, that would not be possible. But Google
has created;innovative scanning technology specifically
for the library project that won't destroy the University's
"It's fast and high quality," Wilkin said. "It takes the opera-
tors as long to scan a book as it takes to turn pages."
The partnership was made because Google founder Larry
Page is a University alum. The University is also a good can-
didate because it has one of the six largest research libraries in
the country, Wilkin said.
It will join other libraries - notably the New York Public
Library and Harvard University's library - in digitizing their
collections through Google.
"It's all about democratizing access," Wilkin said.
The University library is one of the few research libraries that
invites people to walk off the street and come in, Wilkin said.
"Now it becomes as easy as searching in Google," he
said. "Many more people around the world will have
access to the collection, and our own people will have
more convenient access."
Wilkin said he finds it hard to imagine any drawbacks,
especially because the University will not be responsible for
funding. Also, the scanning will be completed in University
facilities so the materials will be missing from the shelves for
a minimum amount of time. The University will maintain
ownership of all the digitized files.
In a news release, University President Mary Sue Coleman
said that the partnership will advance the school's mission as
a great public university that shares knowledge within the aca-
demic community and beyond. "It is an initiative with tremen-
dous impact today and endless future possibilities," she said.
Courant said the University has been wondering for years
how they were going to eventually convert all of their material
into a digital form.
"Now we have this partner who can do it for us in half a
dozen years," he said. "It's wonderful for the University and
for the world of ideas."
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