Google Books comes to the Benson

The rumors are true: the Google Books Library Project is partnering with UT.

Since the day I heard of Google Books I’ve been hoping it would come to UT’s Benson Latin American Collection. The Benson is one of the largest collections of Latin American materials in the world, filling a void created by inconsistent institutional support for libraries in the region. There are legends about UT researchers who got grants to travel to national libraries in Latin America only to find that their holdings were a shadow of the Benson’s. As a student I was always enchanted and frustrated by the Benson because it is an open-stack, non-circulating library: you can see and touch and smell the books but you can’t take them home. It’s a perfect candidate for using digitization to address needs that will not be met otherwise.

The announcement doesn’t specify that the project will focus on Latin American materials, but the fact that the Benson and the PCL Map Collection are mentioned by name is encouraging. The latter also raises the question of whether Google might be interested in digitizing UT’s maps, ideally not only scanning them as UT has already been doing but perhaps georeferencing them: providing Google Earth-like access to specialized and historical maps could yield some amazing results.

I’m sure that there are many hurdles to be faced by the project, not least of which will be to deal with thousands of small publishers in dozens of legal jurisdictions.

I’d love to hear from people at other Google Library Project sites about what it has meant for you on the ground. (Ed?)

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