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The Google Book Search Project will digitize up to 10 million bound volumes from 11 Midwest universities, including the University of Minnesota.

U joins the Google Book Search Project

Along with those of 11 other Midwest universities, U holdings will go digital

By Patty Mattern and Christopher James

June 6, 2007

The University of Minnesota and 11 other Midwest universities in the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) have entered into a groundbreaking collective agreement with Google to digitize up to 10 million bound volumes, nearly doubling the number of universities participating in the Google Book Search Project.

For researchers, the digitization of so many books will revolutionize their work. Currently, researchers and members of the public can spend enormous amounts of time trying to track down a specific piece of content in a book by turning to the brief descriptions in card catalogs, tables of contents, and indexes.

"Through Google, individuals will be able to search every word in millions of books," says Wendy Pradt Lougee, University librarian at the University of Minnesota and member of the six-person team that negotiated the agreement with Google. "Researchers will be able to conduct in-depth searches and make connections across works that would have taken weeks--or even years--to make in the past."

The University and the CIC announced the agreement on June 6. The CIC agreement is unique among those executed with Google thus far in that it will include "collections of distinction"--areas of particular strength within each CIC library. Among the distinctive collections the University might include are Scandinavian history, literature and culture; forestry; bees and beekeeping; and the history of medicine, including oncology, radiology, and pediatrics.

"Through Google, individuals will be able to search every word in millions of books," says Wendy Pradt Lougee, University librarian.

This collaborative approach brings together the holdings of some of the world's largest libraries into one massive digital resource. The CIC comprises the University of Minnesota, University of Chicago, University of Illinois, Indiana University, University of Iowa, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Northwestern University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"The University of Minnesota is making history today," says University of Minnesota Provost Thomas Sullivan. "For our students and researchers, virtual access to printed volumes will change the face and pace of scholarly research. Digitizing these collections is also a public good and supports the land grant mission of the University of Minnesota."

This project also fits well into the University's aspiration to become one of the top three public research universities in the world, Sullivan says.

"With this agreement, the University joins the ranks of institutions like Harvard University, Stanford University, and Oxford University, who are already participating in the Google Book Search Project," says Sullivan.

The collaborative nature of this agreement makes it unique. In fact, this library digitization agreement is one of the largest cooperative actions of its kind in higher education, Lougee says.

"By harnessing the complementary strengths and resources of CIC institutions, this unprecedented agreement will give students, scholars, and the public access to an extraordinary range of collections of distinction," Lougee says. "Google's vast capacity for digitization far exceeds that of any of the participating institutions alone, making this effort a true partnership that reveals the historical depth of these collections from the heartland."

The contract between Google and the CIC institutions is for six years with an option to renew. Google will fund digitization of up to 10 million volumes in CIC library collections. In turn, each CIC institution will support the costs of retrieving and preparing the books for digitization. The University of Minnesota will contribute up to one million volumes from its University Libraries collections. Prior to the Google Book Library initiative, libraries estimated the costs of digitization at approximately $60 per volume, according to the CIC. Hence, the value of this project to the University of Minnesota could reach $60 million.

Once digitized, Google will make these volumes available through its free globally accessible search service. The digitization initiative will include both public domain and copyrighted materials in a manner consistent with copyright law, Lougee says. Google will make available brief "snippets" of copyrighted materials through its search engine, directing viewers to avenues to purchase the volume or borrow a library copy. Public domain materials can be viewed, searched, or downloaded for printing in their entirety from the Google site. For U.S. published material, "public domain" works generally include those published prior to 1923, as well as many federal, state, and local documents.

For the University of Minnesota Libraries and its peer CIC institutions, this initiative is also an important step to preserve and stabilize the libraries' legacy collections, providing broader and more thorough access to historically significant print resources.

"This partnership allows for library digitization at a scale and scope that would not be possible within the limited means available to the individual universities," says Lougee. "To preserve important intellectual content without incurring significant digitization costs is a great benefit to the University of Minnesota and the other institutions."

The University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have pre-existing digitization agreements with Google. This CIC agreement does not affect or supersede these earlier agreements but will complement and extend the digitization already underway.

As part of the agreement, the consortium also will create a first-of-its-kind shared digital repository to collectively archive and manage the full content of as many as five million public domain works held across the CIC libraries and ultimately provide access to a vast array of material with searches customized for scholarly activity.