MBooks: University of Michigan Library transforms research through digital archive

September 15, 2006
Contact: umichnews@umich.edu

ANN ARBOR—The first digital works resulting from the University of Michigan/Google Digitization Partnership are now being used to enhance the University Library’s online catalog.

The online catalog points to a new U-M Library system called MBooks that was developed specifically for the materials digitized by Google. The system, intended to support scholarly research, was designed to meet the specialized needs of researchers by providing more information about works in the collection and” where allowed” actually making the text of works available through the catalog. In addition to a page-turning function, the online material includes updated bibliographic information, persistent URLs” essential for proper citation” and the ability to change resolution (i.e. zoom in or out), and to change format (such as converting to PDF). The ability to magnify or rotate the image is particularly important for researchers who must study detailed images such as formulas for chemical compounds or intricate historical cartography, and for persons with some disabilities.

From the initial days of the partnership, the University Library has anticipated providing these services to its research community, said John Wilkin, co-interim University librarian. “One of our goals has been to create a digital archive that not only preserves the Library’s collections for future generations, but also allows today’s researchers and scholars to make use of the myriad research opportunities offered by a digital archive. Our partnership with Google is helping us accomplish this goal at an unprecedented pace. “

For uncopyrightable works (such as works created by the U.S. government), works in the public domain, and works authorized for public display by the copyright holder, the text will be fully viewable. For all material, the user may search within a volume and retrieve the number of times a search term appears per page. This feature is useful, not only for determining relevancy, but also for scholarship requiring precise and exhaustive citation.

“A project like this, where we are comprehensively digitizing an entire research library of approximately 7 million volumes, results in an extremely broad cross-section of titles being archived. The materials represent a date range of more than 300 years, dozens of languages, and every major subject area in the University Library’s collection,” Wilkin said.

Included in the material will be the University’s extensive federal government document collection. A small sampling of documents available today includes the diplomatic correspondence of Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, and approximately 2,200 Congressional hearings from the 1970s and 1980s.

Productive scholarship, from the modest freshman term paper to the most advanced research project, depends on quality of search and ease of access to source materials, said John King, Vice Provost for Academic Information. “These new systems will bring a transformation in scholarly productivity and quality. Scholars will be able to find virtually everything available on their topic easily and quickly. Public domain materials will be available instantly, while copyrighted materials will be readily accessible through the library’s conventional processes. “

The University of Michigan Library is one of the top ten research libraries in North America. The Library’s mission is to support, enhance, and collaborate in the instructional, research, and service activities of the faculty, students, and staff, and contribute to the common good by collecting, organizing, preserving, communicating, and sharing the record of human knowledge.

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