Kudos to Google and its new university allies -- including my alma mater, the University of Michigan, as well as Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford -- for their exciting project to open the stacks (Wall Street Journal, via Paul Kedrosky). It's a great day for the dissemination of knowledge! Bloggers from these institutions are relaying the emails received from their administrators:
Via Edward Vielmetti in Ann Arbor, from University of Michigan officials Paul Courant and William Gosling:
>The project will make it possible for a user to locate and >read the full text of works that are out of copyright, and to >find snippets of text for copyrighted material, along with >information about where a work can be found. > >In undertaking this project, we understand and respect the >copyright issues involved. As an institution we create, use, >and distribute all sorts of copyrighted works, and we care >deeply about copyright issues from all aspects. >This project is consistent with the very purpose of copyright >law as reflected in the U.S. Constitution, to promote the >advancement and dissemination of knowledge. > >For more information about the project, go to www.umich.edu
Via John Battelle and John Palfrey, et. al, from Harvard's Sid Verba:
Plans call for the eventual development of a link allowing Google users at Harvard to connect directly to the online HOLLIS (Harvard Online Library Information System) catalog (http://holliscatalog.harvard.edu) for information on the location and availability at Harvard of works identified through a Google search. This would merge the search capacity of the Internet with the deep research collections at Harvard into one seamless resource -- a development especially important for undergraduates who often see the library and the Internet as alternative and perhaps rival sources of information.
This is terrific news! But..."eventual development of a link"? Hmm. I visited the HOLLIS system and found it to be an Ex Libris Aleph system. It's of a newer flavor than the one I was already supporting in LibraryLookup, so I added a new variant to the bookmarklet generator. Now you can create bookmarklets that work with Harvard, MIT, and other sites that use this flavor of Aleph system.
Last month, of course, the librarians were also busily exploring the connections among Amazon, Google, and the OCLC's WorldCat. If you haven't noticed this yet, it's quite remarkable. Here, for example, is the first result of a scholar.google.com search for my book:
[BOOK] Practical Internet Groupware - Library Search - Web Search
J Udell - Cited by 11
O'Reilley and Associates, Sebastapol, CA, 1999
Clicking the Library Search link takes you a WorldCat page where, after you supply your ZIP or other postal code, you'll be linked to the OPAC systems in your area that hold the book.
Sid Verba's point about library/Internet synergy is worth amplifying. As I first realized when I helped create O'Reilly's Safari Books Online service, and again later when Amazon's "search inside the book" feature debuted, it's incredibly useful to be able to search books even when you can't access their full contents online. I use these services now in order to locate passages in books that I already own, because it's usually more effective than looking things up in the index.
More broadly, the Internet can profoundly improve the relationship between libraries and society. For example, there are two major libraries in my town -- a college library, and a public library. My library card works in both places. I used to favor the college library, because there was open WiFi access there -- which meant, among other things, that I could use LibraryLookup from my laptop to find books in the stacks. Recently, though, the college shut down its open access point. And from an IT administrator's point of view, I can understand why. Not long after, the public library installed an open access point. So now it's my favorite spot, and lately I notice other mobile professionals congregating there too.
A couple of weeks ago, though, I was visiting the college library to pick up a book that LibraryLookup had showed me was available there. It was a Thursday night. After I found my book, I spent some time looking around in the stacks. When I came downstairs the library was closed, everyone had left, and the front door was locked. It was 8:05 PM and the library closes (I now realize) at 8:00 PM. The notion that anyone would still be in the library at closing time on a Thursday night was, evidently, unthinkable.
So I walked over to the librarians' desk, called campus security, and advised them of the situation. They said they'd be right over. After 15 minutes I got tired of waiting, swiped my books to avoid triggering the alarm, unlocked the door, and let myself out.
Meanwhile, over at the public library, the scene at 8PM on a Thursday night is lively. As it should be.
Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2004/12/14.html#a1133