Published: Nov. 13, 2019

The University Libraries are pleased to announce a partnership with Google Books, which will allow thousands of unique books in our collection to be digitized. 

This effort is part of the technology company’s Library Project, which aims to build a searchable catalog of the world’s books online, including books that are rare, out of print, or generally unavailable outside of the library system. 

This collaboration has the opportunity to connect researchers worldwide to books in the public domain for free. The digital copies from our collection will be added to Google Books and HathiTrust Digital Library. By collaborating with both Google and HathiTrust, the global research community will have access to scholarly materials from the CU Boulder Libraries collection. 

Scholarly Resource Development Director Gabrielle Wiersma said that these shared digital collections represent how libraries can work together to build and preserve access to resources.

“This project will improve access to materials that are rare or difficult to find and create digital copies that will preserve this content and make it accessible for future generations,” Scholarly Resource Development Director Gabrielle Wiersma said. Norlin Stacks

“CU Boulder's collection will bring tens of thousands of new volumes to this growing corpus. We're very excited to be working with the library, and to begin digitization in the coming months,” Ben Bunnell, head of Library Partnerships for Google Books said. 

Wiersma said that Google is interested in content that is uniquely found in the Libraries’ collections, such as the Libraries’ heavily used copy of  The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches by W.E.B. Du Bois

“Even though this book has been digitized by other vendors, many of the digitized copies are only accessible to subscribing institutions,” Wiersma said. “Project Gutenberg provides a transcript of the text, but the Google Books version would be a scan of the actual pages and original formatting, which is often useful to scholars as well.” 

In 2020, the Libraries will be preparing the first 5,000 books to send to Google’s scanning center. Books will be processed using non-destructive scanning techniques to minimize damage to materials. The items will be returned to the Libraries approximately a month later and we will continue sending books for the next few years. 

The precision of the workflow allows minimal disruption in the availability of the physical copy through PASCAL or the University Libraries, and digitization widens the accessibility of the information to the world.

In total, the process is estimated to take two to four years to complete. With this estimation, Interim Director of Libraries Information Technology Michael Dulock approximated that if Google processed 200,000 books and each book was about 200 pages, this project will save the Libraries about $20 million. 

Another way to measure savings for the Libraries is with time. Dulock said that if Digital Media Services in the Libraries worked on this project full-time, with one staff member at 40 hours a week and five students at 20 hours a week, doing nothing else, it would take close to 100 years to complete. 

“The Libraries are committed to increasing access to information as a public good and we are proud to contribute to this growing body of openly accessible scholarly resources” Wiersma said.