[Marxism] Go Blue ! go red : University of Michigan's entire library to be put on Google
cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Wed Dec 15 07:52:30 MST 2004
Subject: Go Blue ! go red : University of Michigan's entire library to be
put on Google
MIKE WENDLAND: U-M's entire library to be put on Google
Billion-dollar project will move text of 7 million volumes online
December 14, 2004
BY MIKE WENDLAND
FREE PRESS COLUMNIST
Google, the ubiquitous Internet search engine, is taking the University of
Michigan's library from Ann Arbor to the world.
BY THE NUMBERS
7,000,000: Volumes in the U-M library to be digitized.
2,380,000,000: Estimated number of pages.
743,750,000,000: Estimated number of words.
1,600: Years it would take U-M to digitize all 7 million volumes without
Google's special technology.
Fewer than 7: Years it will take to digitize the volumes with Google's
$1 billion: Estimated value of the project to U-M.
Source: John Wilkin, associate university librarian, library information
technology and technical and access services, University of Michigan
U-M and the California-based information company will announce an agreement
today under which the complete text of all 7 million volumes in U-M's
library will be digitized -- that is, turned into a computer-readable format
-- and made instantly searchable by anyone using Google.
The massive project means that within a few years, people doing research
about practically anything -- whether for a scholarly paper, a high school
project or a family tree -- will be able to consult U-M's collections online
almost as easily as they could if they were sitting in the landmark library
building on the university's central campus.
It is the largest such digital scanning project ever undertaken, and one
that promises to take online searching far beyond the traditional Web pages,
news and shopping sites that make up most searches today.
"This project signals an era when the printed record of civilization is
accessible to every person in the world with Internet access," said U-M
President Mary Sue Coleman. "It is an initiative with tremendous impact
today and endless future possibilities."
Besides digitizing U-M's massive collection, Google plans to scan parts of
other research libraries, including those at Harvard, Stanford, Oxford
University in England and the New York Public Library. Those projects are
much smaller in scope than Google's plans for U-M. At Harvard, for example,
only 40,000 of the university's 15 million volumes will be digitized.
U-M's library, often ranked among the nation's top 10 research collections,
has been a leader in the drive to convert printed information into digital
form, which scholars say will preserve fragile items and make it easier for
researchers to find the information they want.
During the past several years, the university has scanned about 22,000
volumes, one of the most ambitious digital efforts among U.S. universities.
When Google offered technology that could handle the entire collection, U-M
jumped at the opportunity.
Google has a strong connection to Ann Arbor: Larry Page, one of the
company's two founders, is a graduate of U-M's engineering school. He was
the first recipient of the University of Michigan Alumni Society's recent
engineering graduate award.
The size of the U-M undertaking is staggering. It involves the use of new
technology developed by Google that greatly speeds the digitizing process.
Without that technology -- which Google won't discuss in detail -- the task
would be impossible, says John Wilkin, the U-M associate librarian who is
heading the project.
"Going as fast as we can with the traditional means of doing this, it would
take us about 1,600 years to do all 7 million volumes," he said. "Google
will do it in six years."
Under the agreement, the library will get a digital copy of every book
scanned. With those copies, the library can prepare special research
projects, virtual exhibitions and more relevant scholarly and academic
material for its students and faculty.
"If we were to do this job ourselves, it would probably cost us $600
million," Wilkin said. "That's just the human cost of preparing the material
for scanning, packing it up and sending it out to vendors and then
quality-control checking of the results. This is easily a billion-dollar
Although a few sample volumes were to be made available online today to
highlight the project, significant amounts of material from the library
won't be online until mid-2005. All 7 million volumes should be digitized
into the Google database sometime shortly after 2010.
For Google, digitizing the collection is part of an effort called Google
Print (http://print.google.com <http://print.google.com/>
<http://print.google.com/ <http://print.google.com/> > ), in which the
popular search site is working to create digital databases of books,
reports, manuscripts and other printed materials. The goal is for Web users
accessing the search site to be able to type in a phrase or key words and be
presented with direct access to in-depth research and literary material.
The prospect of expanding that effort to include U-M's 7 million items has
"It's a noble effort, and a huge undertaking," said Gary Price, editor of
ResourceShelf (www.resourceshelf.com <outbind://27/www.resourceshelf.com> ),
a site geared toward information
professionals. "But it's so huge a project that the concern I have is that
people may be lost in a sea of possible links."
Price said he believes the project will lead to similar efforts by Microsoft
"Both of them have the money and the expertise to do this," Price said, "and
there are a lot more libraries around the country. They won't want Google to
have this kind of an advantage over them."
Google refuses to say how many people will be at U-M doing the digitizing
work. "All we can say is this is a very large project, and we will be
working on it aggressively," said Susan Wojcicki, Google's director of
What users will see when they search the U-M collection online depends upon
whether the information is still covered by copyright. For older items,
users will be able to search for and read every word on each page of a book
or document. But for material under copyright, the university will put a
short synopsis of the material online, with information that links to the
publisher or libraries where the work can be obtained.
Contact MIKE WENDLAND at 313-222-8861 or mwendland at freepress.com.
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