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Quick Path to Legacy Digitization via Google Print?

Could the Google Print project be a fast track to digitizing the so-called legacy collection of Government Information?

That’s a thought that occurred to me while reading Joy Weese Moll’s excellent summary of a Google Print presentation at the ACRL conference in the May 2005 issue of Walt Crawford’s Cites and Insights.

Ms. Moll quotes John Price Wilkin from the University of Michigan library on how Google Print works for them:

John Price Wilkin, from the University of Michigan, began his presentation by stating, “Google has been a fantastic partner.” He confirmed that Google is using nondestructive methods of digitizing and that UM retains both the physical book and a digital copy, a preservation surrogate, of each book. Wilkin believes the primary responsibility of the library is to be the long term curator of the physical and digital material.

The University gets a digital copy, identified by barcode. The scan is 600 dpi for print and 300 dpi for color/grayscale. The library specified the naming convention. The files have Optical Character Recognition. The quality is at least as good as what the University of Michigan had been doing for years on their digitization projects.

The library can do whatever it likes with its digital copies. UM will put their copies on-line when they develop specialized tools that better serve the UM audience than the tools Google provides for a general audience.

As you may have heard, public domain materials (mostly pre-1923) will be displayed in full, while copyrighted material will have short excerpts displayed. During the Q&A for this session Ms. Moll notes that Google Print is aware that government publications are mostly public domain and plans some digitization of US government publications, though no specifics were offered.

If a Regional or two partnered with Google on digitizing government publications, I think it would be a benefit to Google, the depository community and the Government Printing Office (GPO).

Google would benefit because they would have a rich body of current material which would allow them to fight the “what good is pre-1923 material in today’s world.”

The participating depositories would benefit because they would get digital files to do with as they wish AND they would be able to store the tangible copies for preservation.

GPO would benefit by being able to reassign staff from digitizing projects to the more urgent work of describing and preserving born digital materials.

What do you think? Leave me a comment.

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  1. I assumed that was the thinking behind the question about government documents.

    It looks like there will be a part 2 to that session–at ALA. This time, there will be representatives from several of the participating libraries. Maybe someone can ask how to get a regional involved.

    Google and Libraries: What’s in Store for Google Print and Google Scholar
    Monday, June 27, 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm

  2. Hi Joy,

    Thanks for stopping by and posting the information about the upcoming Google Print session at ALA. And again, for your summary that was printed in Cites & Insights.

    From your notes it wasn’t clear to me how much interest there was in govdocs as:

    Is Google aware that U.S. government publications in federal depository libraries are copyright free and will they be digitizing them?

    Yes and yes.

    Didn’t seem to indicate anything beyond “hmm, interesting possibility” to me. Glad to hear you find them more enthusiastic.

    “And besides all that, what we need is a decentralized, distributed system of depositing electronic files to local libraries willing to host them.” — Daniel Cornwall, tipping his hat to Cato the Elder for the original quote.

  3. There really wasn’t anything more. But, in the context, Google plans to digitize _everything_ at UMich, including the government documents. And they know enough to not apply their copyright protection to it. It would be wonderful to hear Grace York’s take on this….

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