Google Books, HathiTrust, and Our Contribution to the Collective Collection

The record for a HathiTrust text displayed in QuickSearch.

As you may have read in the Cabinet minutes, the Libraries recently formalized our commitment to participate in the Google Books Library Project. With the goal “to create a comprehensive, searchable, virtual card catalog of all books in all languages,” this partnership between Google and dozens of libraries worldwide—including those of the BTAA, which signed an agreement to participate in 2007—has digitized millions of books and made them searchable through the Google Books platform.

In addition to improving Google’s search, the books scanned through the Google Books Library Project are deposited into the HathiTrust Digital Library. The BTAA and University of California system were instrumental in setting up HathiTrust, a community-owned partnership developed to “be a vital catalyst for emerging forms of research, teaching, and learning that engage the scholarly and cultural record.” We already benefit greatly from the services of HathiTrust, which include preservation of the scanned versions of the content, access to research tools such as textual analysis, and books for people with print disabilities. Moreover, full-text content from HathiTrust is discoverable in QuickSearch, adding to the amount of resources our users have access to at the click of a button.

Though our work on this project is really just beginning, it has already been months in the making. Last spring, we worked with Google to go through a test run of their digitization process, from the identification of books in our collection to the review of the final, scanned versions. Now that we’re moving forward, a Librarieswide team has been formed to carry out the project with Joann Parrone acting as the central coordinator. This group had its kick-off meeting last month and is already working to comb through the candidate list provided by Google, which amounts to nearly 170,000 unique items. Each needs to be reviewed for eligibility, taking into consideration size, condition, and a variety of other factors.

And this is all just the tip of the iceberg. This project will call upon many of us throughout its lifecycle, from the selection of materials, to packing and staging, to coordinating checkout policies while the books are away being scanned. But this this is an important undertaking and a great opportunity for us to further our contribution to the collective collection, advancing the elements of our mission to accelerate discovery, illuminate understanding, and contribute to the public good.

In their new report on operationalizing the BTAA collective collection, Lorcan Dempsey and his colleagues write that “effective collaboration, the provision of shared infrastructure, and operational sustainability are all now central issues for libraries and the institutions of which they are a part.” Contributing to initiatives like the Google Books Library Project and the HathiTrust Digital Library is one of the many ways we can embrace this spirit of collaboration and ensure that we maximize the impact of our collections—not just in the here and now, but around the world, and for generations to come.

Krisellen Maloney