Giving books new life

I began my career working on the Oxford Google Books Project. I was therefore very interested in yesterday’s news that a US court has deemed Google’s digitisation of books to be fair use.

This quote from the ruling sums up my perspective having worked for one of the partner libraries:

Google Books helps to preserve books and give them new life. Older books, many of which are out-of-print books that are falling apart buried in library stacks, are being scanned and saved.

It was my job to survey the library collections to identify books which could be scanned. I spent months down in the stacks with lists of books which had been identified from the catalogue as scanning potentials. The key identifier? Age. We were only scanning items in the public domain. What I hadn’t expected was the number of books we would uncover that hadn’t been picked up from the catalogue, either because their records were incomplete, or that a record didn’t exist at all. Whether they were to end up being scanned or not, these books were catalogued, and so became discoverable. Without the project they would have remained lost.

I left the project before it ended and so didn’t see the final stage of linking up the scanned and physical copies. It is now possible on SOLO, Oxford’s resource discovery service, to view the digitised copy along with details of  the location of the print copy. You can also filter your search to view only results where digitised copies are available.

I believe this is a prime example of the benefits of the project for enhancing library collections.


Further reading (including links to a PDF of the full ruling):

Howard, J. (2013) Judge hands Google a big victory in lengthy book-scanning case. Chronicle of Higher Education. 14 November 2013.

Koyle, K. (2013) It’s FAIR. Coyle’s InFormation. 14 November 2013.