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Zuckerman ’93 on Google Books

Ethan Zuckerman ’93 provides an interesting update/overview of Google Books.

So far, Google has scanned more than 10 million books. That quantity of books meant that Google needed to invent a whole new technical apparatus for scanning books… and Google had to physically pick up and scan those books. More than 1.5 million are in the partner program, and a comparable amount are in public domain. There are more than 40 libraries working as partners.

My prediction: In a decade, undergraduates will find it absurd that Williams wastes so much space on campus (and money off-campus) for book storage.

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#1 Comment By Ronit On August 2, 2009 @ 11:58 am

I think it’s absurd that anyone would give up ownership of their books in exchange for a revocable license to view copies of the books hosted by a corporation. After the recent Kindle incident where Amazon deleted copies of books purchased, I can’t imagine why anyone would accept remotely-controlled or remotely-hosted ebooks to be a substitute for a library

#2 Comment By hwc On August 2, 2009 @ 12:16 pm


I think your prediction is a reasonable one. I would love to get my hands on the 2008 Library Self-Study that the Swarthmore library administrators prepared for the recent round of accreditation. The visiting team called it:

The Swarthmore College Library Self-Study (July 18, 2008) is a model of its kind in defining the twenty-first century liberal arts college library, assessing how Swarthmore’s library is doing in comparison with its peers, and recommending future action.

Alas, the report does not seem to be available. The next best thing is an article by college librarian Peggy Seiden, starting on page 2 of the Spring 2009 Library Newsletter (PDF) that reports on a conference on the future of liberal art college libraries held last fall at the FDR Presidential Library near Vassar:

Is the future of liberal arts college libraries and their collections a different future than for research libraries or other academic libraries?

To try to answer this question, college library directors and heads of collections met together at a symposium, “Shaping Liberal Arts College Library Collections: New Models & Active Strategies,” held in the fall at the F.D.R. Presidential Library and Home in Hyde Park, NY. The continuing crisis in scholarly publishing, the migration to the online environment, new types of purchasing options, and the development of new modes of resource sharing challenge traditional funding or organizational models and affect how users engage with collections. The conference planners hoped that ultimately, the meeting would yield some best practices particularly in the area of collaborative collection development (CCD) in light of the broad shifts in information seeking behavior and scholarly publication.

The article makes clear from the student speakers at the conference and from student experiences at Swarthmore that the role of the local library is no longer shaping a collection to guide what the students learn, but that students view “the collection” as extending beyond the boundraries of the local library.

Our approach values providing our community with broad and deep collections that can be retrieved within a day, rather than more narrowly focused local collections. Students see the whole of what they have immediate access to as the collection. Their remarks indicated that they tend to view ConnectNY as a part of their local collection, not as an interlibrary loan system that it actually is. Add to this, the “free web” and scholarly databases that cover and can direct students to a significant portion of published knowledge, and it is clear that the idea of shaping students’ research experiences is no longer a matter of shaping the local library’s collections.

The role of the librarian is changing:

So it would seem that the future library collection is one without limits previously imposed by budget and space constraints, a library wherein users can access most of recorded knowledge, at least in its digital form. Even where we continue to acquire physical materials, what we provide access to is greatly enhanced by CCD initiatives. And that is all to the good. As Sarah Willie-LeBreton noted, shaping collections is inherently a political act. Consortia and CCD initiatives allow for a diversity of approaches as to how one looks at a discipline.

Our (librarians’ and faculty’s) pedagogical role is less in selecting the materials we think students should access, than it is in teaching them about how to find these resources and how to become more intelligent consumers of this information.

#3 Comment By hwc On August 2, 2009 @ 12:25 pm

Oh my, look what I found. Here is a webpage on the conference:

Shaping Liberal Arts College Library Collections: New Models and Active Strategies

This page seems to have very complete documentation of the symposium starting with the list of participating schools:

•Amherst College
•Augustana College
•Bard College
•Bates College
•Bowdoin College
•Bryn Mawr College
•Carleton College
•Colby College
•Colgate University
•College of Wooster
•Colorado College
•Connecticut College
•Denison University
•Grinnell College
•Hampshire College
•Haverford College
•Illinois Wesleyan University
•Kenyon College
•Lake Forest College
•Middlebury College
•Mount Holyoke College
•Oberlin College
•Reed College
•Rollins College
•Smith College
•St. Lawrence University
•St. Olaf College
•Swarthmore College
•Trinity College
•UMass Amherst Libraries
•Vassar College
•Wellesley College
•Wesleyan College
•Whitman College
•Willamette University
•Williams College

And, a List of the participants from each school. For example, Williams was represented by College Librarian, David M. Pilachowski.

More intriguing, and I haven’t even perused it yet, are links to nine background papers presented at the symposium. Probably some very interesting reading:

Background Papers for the Discussion on Shaping Collections

More later, maybe.

#4 Comment By hwc On August 2, 2009 @ 1:06 pm

Here is the background paper on user trends:

User Behavior Trends and Library Collections (PDF)

Users prefer electronic versions of journals:

We also know that we must be careful to distinguish user behaviors by group and that, even then, generalizations are risky. On the whole, though, users prefer online journals for most titles, and faculty across all disciplines are increasingly willing to forgo print journals when a trusted online source exists. But faculty and librarians (the former more than the latter) are skeptical about ebooks and do not see them as replacing print collections in the next five years.

However, they prefer reading hardcopy books:

Convenience is the most important driver in determining how students seek information and the most important criterion for user satisfaction overall. We also know, however, that convenience doesn’t necessarily equate to choosing an online resource. For example, if printing from an online source is difficult, as is the case with monographs, users may prefer a physical copy of the work. Above all, users want portability of sources, preferably a personal copy they can mark up/annotate and consult in class. Again, the ability to print is critical. As one Swarthmore student stated, “if we have that much reading to do, what would you suggest? Reading on the screen is simply not an option: it’s less comfortable, you can’t highlight it, and you can’t flip back and forth.”

#5 Comment By hwc On August 2, 2009 @ 1:29 pm

Here’s the paper providing summary statistics for the 80 members of the liberal arts college library organization:

Statistics (PDF)

The average annual acquistion costs for each of the 80 colleges is now $1.2 million. Roughly $800,000 of that is for journals.

The average library for the 80 colleges has increased more than 100,000 volumes over the last ten years, from under 500,000 to nearly 600,000.

Average print journals is just under 2,000 and has been consistent for the last decade. Average electronic journals have increased from under 1000 to almost 8000 in less than ten years.

Average inter-library lending has increased from 5000 volumes per year to nearly 9000 volumes over the last decade.

#6 Comment By hwc On August 2, 2009 @ 8:21 pm

Speaking of digital libraries, did ya’ll know that digital versions of the Williams Record are available for online viewing or PDF download at the Internet Archive?

Here’s the 1971-1972 volume, conveniently flipped to the page with the review of the Pink Floyd “acid rock” concert in Chapin Hall:

November 16, 1971 Williams Record

Use the up and down arrows at the upper right to scroll through all the editions of the full academic year.

The Record caption writer seemed to like Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen (a “country western rock act”) better during winter study, at least noting that they had the crowd in Chapin “up and dancing”.

January 14, 1972 Williams Record

I haven’t found the review of the Winter Carnival Little Feat concert in Chapin yet. It’s in a different volume. It appears that all of the issues form 1904 up through at least 1990 are available on-line:

Williams Record in the Internet Archive


#7 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On August 2, 2009 @ 9:22 pm

Anyone care to predict what happens to the Google Archive in case of an EMP event?

#8 Comment By hwc On August 2, 2009 @ 11:56 pm

Anyone care to predict what happens to the Google Archive in case of an EMP event?

Probably no worse than what happened to the Hiroshima Public Library.

I have a very hard time picturing Wi-Fi’d and iPhone’d college students wanting anything to do with old-fashioned paper books 50 years from now.

#9 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On October 9, 2009 @ 5:00 pm

Sergey Brin’s handlers’ take. I suspect Sergey’s handlers are blissfully unaware of exactly what a 50 kiloton detonation sixty miles above Winnepeg would do. (Somewhere I think I still have a Stanford email that might reach Sergey without the handlers.) For my part, it would be useful to have Malinowski and Geertz online tonight, and not have to figure out the train route over to Heidelberg to real Werner Falk’s Inaugural Dissertation.

Then again, there will be something in holding the copy Falk submitted in my hands, making the acquaintance of the librarian, checking the record of who else has read the copy, looking for any special notes the author left for future readers, and, of course, seeing the Heidelberche once again.

It’s about half an hour, if one hikes at a good pace, into the woods. On a sunny day, which one will be lucky to have, even into January, the accumulated leaves will be deep oranges and bright yellows, and damp, beneath and between the snow