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Google Books Library Project plans to digitize millions of titles in UC’s libraries

By Iris Chen

April 22, 2010 9:58 p.m.

While books have remained a steady source of information throughout centuries of literacy, digital collections now also accompany the traditional paper books at University of California libraries.

More than 2.5 million books from UC libraries are contracted to be digitized by the Google Books Library Project.

The project aims to establish a comprehensive virtual card catalog of all types of books in all languages.

The UCLA Library has also digitized more than 200,000 academic books now available through online information databases, such as Internet Archive and Hathi Trust, said Sharon Farb, associate university librarian for collection management and scholarly communication.

“The e-books that the UCLA Library acquires can be used broadly by students, faculty and staff for the same broad, routine educational purposes as print books and contain content useful in instruction and research,” Farb said.

With so many texts electronically available, John Richardson Jr., professor of information studies, noted a change in the standard of successful research.

In the past, research success depended on the extent to which the researcher used the resources of a single institution or his ability to visit several locations, Richardson said.

However, the lack of source accessibility does not apply as much to current research, as more titles are electronically available, he said.

The library offers a location that preserves books physically ““ one quality that no digital source of information has been able to match.

“Print books are easily used and read, portable, and can be reused and shared over time and across users, which extends the longevity and spread of the knowledge they contain,” Farb said.

Ramesh Srinivasan, assistant professor of information studies, said the physical paperback also carries with it a history ““ how it is made and the aesthetic feel to it ““ aside from merely the text within.

Srinivasan said he remained concerned with learning to use the new media as opposed to traditional books.

“I have questions about whether students will really sort of engage with materials, with the sort of rigor and continuity that they do with books,” he said.

Jean-François Blanchette, assistant professor of information studies, noted how students consume reading materials for very specific purposes.

Blanchette said students perform specialized tasks when they read material, such as highlighting, annotating, exchanging notes with others and forming personal strategies on which they use these tools.

While digital information can be more readily accessible, the text remains harder for specialized use and sharing.

Farb agreed with the importance of students’ approach towards digitized information.

“In higher education, as in education in general, the ability to provide broad educational access to and use of any type of content that enriches and enhances knowledge creation is critical,” she said.

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