Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Participating libraries talk about the Google Library project

The "Google Five" Describe Progress, Challenges, Library Journal Academic Newswire, June 28, 2007.  Excerpt:

Their numbers have now swelled to 25, but what's up with the five pioneering libraries that signed on with the ever-growing Google Book Search? At the American Library Association Annual Conference, panelists from each library said they were pleased with the progress, though they acknowledged continuing challenges ranging from damaged books to search quality. Google product manager Adam Smith led off by describing the new "About the Book" page under construction for titles in Google Book Search, which includes key terms and phrases, references to the book from scholarly publications or other books, chapter titles, and a list of related books—even for books that aren't digitized....

[Harvard University Library's Dale Flecker] praised the "About this book" feature and predicted that "text mining" will be an important part of research. Tierney said that seven to ten reference questions or interlibrary loan requests a week are generated by use of Google Book Search. Dunkle added that Michigan has received more international reference questions through GBS. Thomas [of Oxford] said that the scan plan has produced "much more detailed knowledge about our collection," including the surprise that about one percent of the Bodleian Library's books have uncut pages, meaning they've never been opened.

Challenges remain, Smith conceded, including generating better metadata. Dunkle said that librarians in the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), the 12-library group that recently signed a deal with Google, hope to find ways to search across the books, though "I personally think Google will get there first." Flecker said Harvard librarians also hope Google will solve some access problems. "Right now, to be frank, I don't find the retrieval in Book Search to be that impressive." Flecker said....

Emory University's Martin Halbert, speaking from the audience, briefly described his university's alternative plan in which libraries retain control of the digital volumes, and can focus on coherent subject areas. Google's Smith was magnanimous. "From Google's perspective," he said, "We view this as complementary."

How to measure success? "We'll define success as getting as much of our collection digitized as we can," observed Oxford's Thomas, noting that most of the collection doesn't circulate, and that digital access can transform scholarship. Stanford's Tierney said that she hoped the growth of the program would help convince publishers to release more material in copyright "available in non-snippet view." She said she hoped the "orphan works" issue, which leaves so much published material in copyright limbo, is resolved. "I would not want my physician to be using pre-'23 medical texts," she observed.