Category Archives: Digital collections

Happy Public Domain Day 2019!

Today is Public Domain Day 2019, which means (finally!) the end of copyright for works first published in the U.S. in 1923. You are now free to use, reprint, quote, remix, or create your own derivative works from 1923 works without permission from or payment to the copyright holders, who would be the descendants or estates of the long-dead creators.

Specific works from a wide range of authors entered the public domain today, including Robert Frost, Winston Churchill, Agatha Christie, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Kahlil Gibran, Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence, Edith Wharton, P.G. Wodehouse, Ernest Hemingway, Sigmund Freud, Willa Cather, Joseph Conrad, H.G. Wells, Virginia Woolf, George Bernard Shaw, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Rudyard Kipling, e.e. cummings, E.M. Forster, Zane Grey, Arthur Conan Doyle, and many others.

The full texts of the 1923 books that have already been scanned by the Internet Archive, Hathi Trust, and Google Books will be made publicly available on their websites, and I’m sure many more 1923 works will soon be scanned by these and other institutions. And every January 1st the public domain will gain another year’s treasures, which will be especially important to authors, scholars, artists, and researchers.

For decades, only works published in the U.S. through 1922 have been in the public domain, as Congress repeatedly and retroactively extended the length of copyright terms. Most works published between 1923 and 1977 currently have copyright protection for 95 years, so 1923 works enter the public domain on the first day of 2019, 1924 works on the first day of 2020, and so on. (So F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, first published in 1925, won’t enter the public domain for another two years.)  However, books published today don’t enter the public domain until 70 years after the death of the author. It’s all ridiculously complicated, so see this chart of Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States from Cornell University for details and exceptions.

Here are some recommended links for more information and lists of some of the 1923 works that entered the public domain today:

Free access to Oxford online resources the week of April 13th

To celebrate National Library Week, Oxford University Press is providing free access to their online resources from April 13th through 19th:

Username: libraryweek
Password: libraryweek

Go here to see the full list (with links) of online resources you can access. A few highlights:

  • Oxford English Dictionary
  • Oxford Bibliographies Online
  • Oxford Reference
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Online
  • American National Biography Online
  • Grove Art Online
  • Grove Music Online
  • Berg Fashion Library
  • Oxford African American Studies Online
  • Electronic Enlightenment

 

Free access this week to the Oxford English Dictionary & Historical Thesaurus

Oxford University Press is celebrating National Library Week with free access through April 20th to two of their best online resources:

Both sites can be accessed this week by using the same username and password: libraryweek

See OUP’s post for more information. If your local public library system subscribes to these resources, you may already have free access to them from home through your library website with your library card number and PIN.

57 years of author interviews from The Paris Review are now online

If you liked the BBC archive of interviews with British novelists that I blogged about a couple of months ago, you’ll love this.

The New York Times reported that Lorin Stein, the new editor of The Paris Review, has posted all of the magazine’s author interviews from 1953 to 2010 on the website, where they can be read for free.

The archive contains hundreds of interviews with a remarkable assortment of authors– writers of fiction and nonfiction, poets, playwrights, and screenwriters– and you can browse by name or by decade. Here are just some of the notable authors I spotted while browsing:  Edward Albee, Woody Allen, Martin Amis, Kingsley Amis, A.R. Ammons, Maya Angelou, John Ashbery, Margaret Atwood, W.H. Auden, James Baldwin, J.G. Ballard, Saul Bellow, Harold Bloom, Ray Bradbury, Anthony Burgess, William S. Burroughs, James M. Cain, Truman Capote, Raymond Carver, Don DeLillo, Isak Dineson, T.S. Eliot, Ralph Ellison, James Ellroy, William Faulkner, Shelby Foote, E.M. Forster, John Fowles, Robert Frost, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Graves, Graham Greene, Joseph Heller, Lillian Hellman, Ernest Hemingway, Ted Hughes, Aldous Huxley, John Irving, Kazuo Ishiguro, Jack Kerouac, Ken Kesey, Stephen King, Milan Kundera, John le Carre, Doris Lessing, Jonathan Letham, Norman Mailer, Bernard Malamud, David Mamet, Ian McEwan, Henry Miller, Arthur Miller, Toni Morrison, Vladimir Nabokov, Grace Paley, Dorothy Parker, Boris Pasternak, Harold Pinter, Ezra Pound, Richard Powers, Richard Price, Jean Rhys, Philip Roth, Salman Rushdie, Budd Schulberg, Anne Sexton, Neil Simon, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Stephen Sondheim, John Steinbeck, Tom Stoppard, William Styron, Hunter S. Thompson, James Thurber, John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut, Evelyn Waugh, Eudora Welty, Rebecca West, E.B. White, Elie Wiesel, Billy Wilder, Thornton Wilder, William Carlos Williams, Tennessee Williams, August Wilson, Jeanette Winterson, Tom Wolfe, and P.G. Wodehouse.

Enjoy!

The BBC radio and television archive website

Thanks to Jay Lake, I discovered that the BBC Archive website contains some fantastic collections of old radio and television content. Here are just a few of the collections that caught my eye:

The full list of collections is here, and the home page has links to some other web resources.

Historic photographs mapped by location

Thanks to ResearchBuzz for pointing out a cool new resource: SepiaTown, a site to search, view, and upload historic photographs by location. The site combines the historic images with modified Google Maps, so you can search or browse by location. Click on an image to see the old photograph and view the date and other details about it. The “image info” link brings up more information, such as the name of the photographer, the source of the photograph, and the source URL. The “then/now” link allows you to compare the historic image to the current Google street view of the same location or building. Many of the images have been uploaded from library digital collections and Flickr Commons (a site I blogged about last year).

Search, browse, and share digital images from the Library of Congress

Today the Library of Congress announced the launch of their new and improved Prints and Photographs Online Catalogue (PPOC), making it easier to browse, search, and share LOC’s 1.25 million digital images, including historic photographs, prints and drawings, posters, cartoons, baseball cards, and architectural drawings. Many of the digital images can be downloaded at no charge in different formats (jpegs and tiffs) and resolutions, and the new share/save tool allows you to save images, searches, or collections and post links to them on social networking sites.

The Prints and Photographs Online Catalogue can be found at http://www.loc.gov/pictures and a descriptive list of the digital collections is here. Go browse!

“Books are Weapons in the War of Ideas”: 1942 WWII poster from the U.S. Government Printing Office.

And now for something completely different…

Today is day 7 of Amazon’s boycott of Macmillan print books and ebooks. John Scalzi summarizes the current state of affairs in a very entertaining way in his new blog post, “A Quick Interview of Me, By Me, To Catch Up With Everything Amazon.” And Matt and I spotted this today in a full-page ad in the New York Times for Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto:  “Available at booksellers everywhere except Amazon.”

I realize that not all of my readers are as obsessed with this subject as I am, so I will give you a break and blog about some other things today:

Google Book Settlement

The Google Book Settlement fairness hearing will finally be held on February 18th, and the deadline to opt out or object passed on January 28th. James Grimmelmann has been posting lots of great links about the GBS on his Laboratorium blog:

Clarion and Clarion West Writers Workshop deadlines approaching

Applications are due by March 1st for the 2010 Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle, “an intensive six-week workshop for writers preparing for professional careers in science fiction and fantasy.” The 2010 workshop will run from June 20th to July 30th, and the instructors are Michael Bishop, Maureen McHugh, Nnedi Okorafor, Graham Joyce, Ellen Datlow, and Ian McDonald. See the Clarion West website for more information.

Also due by March 1st are applications for the 2010 Clarion Writers’ Workshop at UC San Diego, which runs from June 27th to August 7th. The 2010 instructors are Delia Sherman, George R.R. Martin, Dale Bailey, Samuel R. Delany, Jeff VanderMeer, and Ann VanderMeer.

Library budget cuts

Small Beer Press

Kelly Link and Gavin Grant’s Small Beer Press will bring back into print two books by writers Matt and I really like– Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life in October 2010, and Kelley Eskridge’s Solitaire in January 2011. They are joining a fine group of other writers published by Small Beer Press, including John Crowley, Elizabeth Hand, Geoff Ryman, Sean Stewart, and Kelly Link, among others.

And finally…

Introducing the iCodex:

Today, St. Stephen of Jobs announced the newest creation from the monks at Abbey Apple: the iCodex, which he believes will revolutionize the way people work and play…

With the iCodex, people can now store multiple items in one, easy-to-use package. A user could, for example, enjoy both cooking recipes and psalms, or mappa mundi and instructions on marital relations. Since the iCodex’s pages are bound together in an easy-to-turn format, things stored at the end of an iCodex are as easy to access as the beginning…

Excitement for the product could be felt all over the literate world. At the Library of Google, scribes were busy transferring hundreds of years of scrolls onto codices. “We hope to copy the entire history of human writing into codex form within the next few decades,” said Larry the Page, Google’s founder….

Go read the whole thing on Tom Elrod’s Wordism blog.

Library of Congress World War I posters now online

The Library of Congress has photographed and made available online 1,900 World War I posters created between 1914 and 1920.  The majority of the posters are from the United States, but the collection also includes posters from Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, and Russia. Here’s some background from the introduction to the collection:

During World War I, the impact of the poster as a means of communication was greater than at any other time during history. The ability of posters to inspire, inform, and persuade combined with vibrant design trends in many of the participating countries to produce thousands of interesting visual works. As a valuable historical research resource, the posters provide multiple points of view for understanding this global conflict. As artistic works, the posters range in style from graphically vibrant works by well-known designers to anonymous broadsides (predominantly text).

The Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division has extensive holdings of World War I era posters. Available online are approximately 1,900 posters created between 1914 and 1920. Most relate directly to the war, but some German posters date from the post-war period and illustrate events such as the rise of Bolshevism and Communism, the 1919 General Assembly election and various plebiscites….

The poster was a major tool for broad dissemination of information during the war. Countries on both sides of the conflict distributed posters widely to garner support, urge action, and boost morale… Even with its late entry into the war, the United States produced more posters than any other country….

All of these posters are in the public domain the United States, and you can download free digital files directly from the Library of Congress website or purchase photographic copies. Here are two of the posters:

Patriotic Canadians

it's up to you

There’s lots of other great stuff in the LOC’s Prints and Photographs Division–historic photographs (including Mathew Brady’s Civil War photographs, Ansel Adams’s Manzanar War Relocation Center photographs, and many newspaper and magazine archives), fine prints and posters, baseball cards, cartoons, and so on. Here are links to the online catalogue and the collection and subject overview, so go browse. (An important note: some of this material is still under copyright. See the LOC’s rights and restrictions information for details and the copyright status of specific collections.)

Someone other than Google is digitizing and selling public domain library books

Last month I blogged about Google partnering with the makers of the Espresso Book Machine to print 2 million public domain works on demand. Yesterday DigitalKoans reported that the New York Public Library has joined the Kirtas Technologies Digitize-on-Demand program to digitize and sell public domain works. Here’s an excerpt from the Kirtas press release:

Readers and researchers looking for hard-to-find books now have the opportunity to dip into the collections of one of the world’s most comprehensive libraries to purchase digitized copies of public domain titles. Through their Digitize-on-Demand program, Kirtas Technologies has partnered with The New York Public Library to make 500,000 public domain works from the Library’s collections available (to anyone in the world).

“New technology has allowed the Library to greatly expand access to its collections,” said Paul LeClerc, President of The New York Public Library. “Now, for the first time, library users are able to order copies of specific items from our vast public domain collections that are useful to them. Additionally the program creates a digital legacy for future users of the same item and a revenue stream to support our operations. We are very pleased to participate in a program that is so beneficial to everyone involved.”

Using existing information from NYPL’s catalog records, Kirtas will make the library’s public domain books available for sale through its retail site before they are ever digitized. Customers can search for a desired title on http://www.kirtasbooks.com and place an order for that book. When the order is placed, only then is it pulled from the shelf, digitized and made available as a high-quality reprint or digital file.

What makes this approach to digitization unique is that NYPL incurs no up-front printing, production or storage costs. It also provides the library with a self-funding, commercial model helping it to sustain its digitization programs in the future. Unlike other free or low-cost digitization programs, the library retains the rights and ownership to their own digitized content…

Kirtas currently has 13 partnerships with universities and public libraries to make special collections available for sale online. Virtually any library with a modern records database and valuable collections can participate in the Digitize on Demand program.

This is an interesting model, as books don’t have to be scanned until someone requests a copy, unlike Google’s random and expensive “scan first” method. But the Kirtas Books website (www.kirtasbooks.com) is surprisingly clunky, unattractive, and awkward to use, and it looks like it takes 3 to 4 weeks to have a book scanned (books that have already been scanned are available for instant download). For the titles I’ve browsed, digital files are $1.95, paperbacks are an additional $8.05, and hardcovers are an additional $18.05. The powerful and easy to use Google Book Search (and its free digital files of public domain works) wins hands down, so I don’t see myself using Kirtas Books unless I want a copy of a work that Google hasn’t yet scanned.

Update: A commenter has noted that the book scans done by Kirtas Books are much better than those done by Google. If that’s true, then I may have been too quick to assume that I wouldn’t order from Kirtas unless I couldn’t get something from Google. I should order some books from both Kirtas and the Espresso Book Machine and compare them. (I stand by my criticisms of the Kirtas Books website, and its limited search capabilities don’t compare to Google Book Search. The long wait to have a book scanned is still a problem, as I’m usually under time pressure when doing research for others.)

“When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books…”

According to this Boston Globe article, the Cushing Academy, a New England prep school, is replacing all of its library books with a digital “learning center”:

This year, after having amassed a collection of more than 20,000 books, officials at the pristine campus about 90 minutes west of Boston have decided the 144-year-old school no longer needs a traditional library. The academy’s administrators have decided to discard all their books and have given away half of what stocked their sprawling stacks – the classics, novels, poetry, biographies, tomes on every subject from the humanities to the sciences. The future, they believe, is digital.

“When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books,’’ said James Tracy, headmaster of Cushing and chief promoter of the bookless campus. “This isn’t ‘Fahrenheit 451’ [the 1953 Ray Bradbury novel in which books are banned]. We’re not discouraging students from reading. We see this as a natural way to shape emerging trends and optimize technology.’’

Instead of a library, the academy is spending nearly $500,000 to create a “learning center,’’ though that is only one of the names in contention for the new space. In place of the stacks, they are spending $42,000 on three large flat-screen TVs that will project data from the Internet and $20,000 on special laptop-friendly study carrels. Where the reference desk was, they are building a $50,000 coffee shop that will include a $12,000 cappuccino machine.

And to replace those old pulpy devices that have transmitted information since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 1400s, they have spent $10,000 to buy 18 electronic readers made by Amazon.com and Sony… Those who don’t have access to the electronic readers will be expected to do their research and peruse many assigned texts on their computers…

Cushing is one of the first schools in the country to abandon its books….

This is stupid on so many levels that I forced myself to wait a full day before blogging about it so I wouldn’t rant incoherently. Let me just pose a few questions:

  • Did the librarians of Cushing Academy try to explain to their headmaster that only a small percentage of works are available in digital form, and that most of those aren’t free?
  • Before discarding their 20,000 printed books, did they consider checking to see which ones aren’t available in digital form and keeping those? (In my experience many of the best reference works only exist in print form.)
  • Did they think about the fact that even if the library pays to subscribe to subscription databases and encourages the use of free public domain works (Google Books, Project Gutenberg, etc.), that still means students won’t have access to the vast majority of works published after 1922 and still under copyright?
  • What happens when students try to do research using Google Books and discover that the works they need are only available in print form and they can’t view more than a snippet of text online? Has Cushing Academy set up any kind of interlibrary loan program so students can get access to the printed books they need?
  • Will teachers at the school be limited to using only texts available in digital form?
  • Will students be instructed in how to find, use, evaluate, and cite digital sources? (Perhaps we should start calling the Cushing Academy “the Wikipedia school.”)
  • What’s going to happen when these kids go off to college and discover that they don’t have a clue how to find or use printed sources? Will they even know that there’s a whole world of knowledge not available to them on the internet?
  • Were the parents told about this in advance so they could choose to send their children to another school instead? (Especially since this year’s tuition for the Cushing Academy boarding school is over $42,000 and the day school is over $31,000.)

I could go on, but I’m going to stop now before my head explodes. I’ll leave you with an excerpt from the transcript of a talk that James Tracy (the headmaster) gave about “Libraries Beyond Books,” which is posted on the Cushing Academy website:

This is why, at Cushing Academy, where we are dedicated to forging the most far-sighted pedagogies for twenty-first century education, we have decided to be bookless within a year.

You know [holding up a book], if I look at this book I am struck by how limited it is. This is pretty bulky. I don’t mean to belittle or disparage it. I love books, and I love the representation of culture that they embody, but, from an information perspective, this is a very, very bulky way to reposit data by today’s standards.

We should be able to hold not only this book but thousands of others in one hand. So Cushing has decided to go from a library that right now is a warehouse of 20,000 books shelved in old technology to a library of millions of books utilizing far less space and with much richer and more powerful means of accessing that information. If I want to research all the references to Churchill just in our little 20,000 volume library, it’s going to take me months and years, but I can now data mine every reference to Churchill in 7 million volumes in a matter of seconds using search engines. Moreover, we find from a check of the records that our students aren’t really using the books extensively for research, anyway. They’re already doing most of that online, and, in fact, they are checking out more music and films than books from the Cushing library.

I’ll tell you that, with the financial crisis, as a Headmaster, I no longer see the point of maintaining this huge warehouse of underutilized space that we call a library. Better to free up that space while at the same time expanding by many orders of magnitude the school community’s access to information, literature, art, music via terminals that I term “Portals to Civilization.”

“Hidden treasures in the world’s public photography archives”

The Commons on Flickr is a website and program “to increase access to publicly-held photography collections” and “to provide a way for the general public to contribute information and knowledge” by adding tags or comments to help describe the photographs. The Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, the New York Public Library, and the National Galleries of Scotland are just a few of the participating institutions.

Here’s a photo from the State Library of New South Wales of Adelie penguins after a blizzard at Cape Denison, taken by Frank Hurley during the First Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-1914:

penguins

Here’s an 1882 albumen print of Oscar Wilde from the George Eastman House Collection:

wilde

Thanks to LISNews for the tip.

World Digital Library launches April 21st

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), the Library of Congress, and over 30 institutions from around the world have partnered to created the World Digital Library, which will launch on April 21, 2009.

From the World Digital Library website:

The World Digital Library will make available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from cultures around the world, including manuscripts, maps, rare books, musical scores, recordings, films, prints, photographs, architectural drawings, and other significant cultural materials. The objectives of the World Digital Library are to promote international and inter-cultural understanding and awareness, provide resources to educators, expand non-English and non-Western content on the Internet, and to contribute to scholarly research.

From the UNESCO press release:

The WDL will function in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish, and will include content in a great many other languages. Browse and search features will facilitate cross-cultural and cross-temporal exploration on the site. Descriptions of each item and videos with expert curators speaking about selected items will provide context for users, and are intended to spark curiosity and encourage both students and the general public to learn more about the cultural heritage of all countries.

The WDL was developed by a team at the Library of Congress. Technical assistance was provided by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina of Alexandria, Egypt. Institutions contributing content and expertise to the WDL include national libraries and cultural and educational institutions in Brazil, Egypt, China, France, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Mali, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, Qatar, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovakia, Sweden, Uganda, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Examples of treasures that will be featured on the WDL include oracle bones and steles contributed by the National Library of China; Arabic scientific manuscripts from the National Library and Archives of Egypt; early photographs of Latin America from the National Library of Brazil; the Hyakumanto darani, a publication from the year 764 from the National Diet Library of Japan; the famous 13th century “Devil’s Bible” from the National Library of Sweden; and works of Arabic, Persian, and Turkish calligraphy from the collections of the Library of Congress.

The National Archives (NARA) has created a web page highlighting the digital copies of documents it’s contributing to the World Digital Library, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights, the Emancipation Proclamation, and Civil War photographs.

My thanks to the Librarian and Information Science News blog for the tip.

Digital collection news from two of my favorite libraries

Last month the Library of Congress digitally scanned the 25,000th book in its “Digitizing American Imprints” program, which “scans aging ‘brittle’ books often too fragile to serve to researchers.” From their January 14, 2009 press release:

The Library, which has contracted with the Internet Archive for digitization services, is combining its efforts with other libraries as part of the open content movement. The movement, which includes over 100 libraries, universities and cultural institutions, aims to digitize and make freely available public-domain books in a wide variety of subject areas.

Books scanned in this pilot project come primarily from the Library’s local history and genealogy sections of the General Collections. For many of these titles, only a few copies exist anywhere in the world, and a reader would need to travel to Washington to view the Library’s copy. Now, the works can be accessed freely online or downloaded for closer inspection or printing. Readers can search the text for individual words, making the digital copy an even more valuable research tool than the original…

All scanning operations are housed in the Library’s John Adams Building on Capitol Hill. Internet Archive staff work two shifts each day on 10 “Scribe” scanning stations. The operation can digitize up to 1,000 volumes each week. Shortly after scanning is complete, the books are available online at www.archive.org. Books can be read online or downloaded for more intensive study. The Library of Congress is actively working with the Internet Archive on the development of a full-featured, open-source page turner. A beta version, called the Flip Book, is currently available on the Internet Archive site…

The Internet Archive is a non-profit organization founded in 1996 to build an Internet library, with the purpose of offering permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format. The Internet Archive includes texts, audio, moving images, and software as well as archived web pages…

The Internet Archive is also home to the Wayback Machine, an archive of 85 billion web pages “from 1996 to a few months ago.”  Type in a web address and choose from the archived dates available. It’s kind of like digital time travel.

The Folger Shakespeare Library “is expanding access to its digital collection by offering free online access to over 20,000 images from the library’s holdings.” From their January 15, 2009 press release:

The digital image collection includes books, theater memorabilia, manuscripts, art, and 218 of the Folger’s pre-1640 quarto editions of the works of William Shakespeare. Users can now examine these collection items in detail while accessing the Folger’s rare materials from desktop anywhere in the world.”Digital initiatives are an important and ongoing part of our mission to provide access to the Folger collection,” said Gail Kern Paster, Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library. “Cherishing the past has never been in conflict with embracing the future. The promise of digitization is one more powerful case in point. We now have opportunities to bring the Folger’s extraordinary collection to more users than ever.”

Julie Ainsworth, the Folger’s Head of Photography and Digital Imaging, said, “We began digitizing the collection in 1995. By making the collection available online, we are giving researchers and the public an important tool.”

The Folger’s digital image collection provides resources for users to view multiple images side by side, save their search results, create permanent links to images, and perform other tasks through a free software program, Luna Insight.

Stephen Enniss, Eric Weinmann Librarian at the Folger said that “These features will create more ways for researchers, students, and teachers to experience the collection. They can share images with each other, generate online galleries, and examine items from Queen Elizabeth’s letters to costume sketches. As a library we’re continually seeking ways to expand access to researchers and students across the country and around the world.”

The Folger is also collaborating with the University of Oxford to create the Shakespeare Quartos Archive, which will provide free online access to interactive, high-resolution images of the 75 quarto editions of Shakespeare’s plays. Other participants include the British Library, the University of Edinburgh Library, the Huntington Library, and the National Library of Scotland, and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities which is designing a special interface for the Hamlet quartos in the archive. The Shakespeare Quartos Archive is funded by a new Transatlantic Digitization Collaboration Grant awarded jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Joint Information Systems Committee. In addition, Picturing Shakespeare will make 10,000 images from the Folger collection – including prints, drawings, and photographs relating to Shakespeare – available to teachers, scholars, and the general public through an initiative from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Both projects join a fast-growing body of podcasts, videos, and other online content produced by the library.

Here’s the link to the Folger’s Digital Image Collection.

As I wrote in my blog post about library resources you can access from home, rare book library websites offer extraordinary and unique digital collections, online exhibitions, virtual galleries and showcases, essays and articles, collection and research guides, and bibliographies. So go explore.

Europe puts its cultural treasures online

Europeana, a new digital library of Europe’s cultural treasures (including literature, art, history, music, and cinema) launched today with over 2 million items from over 1000 institutions (museums, national libraries, archives, and galleries) from 27 European Union countries.

The “About Us” page has information about the project, a list of participating institutions (including the Louvre and the British Library), and details about the kinds of items that have been digitized and are available on the site:

  • Images – paintings, drawings, maps, photos and pictures of museum objects
  • Texts – books, newspapers, letters, diaries and archival papers
  • Sounds – music and spoken word from cylinders, tapes, discs and radio broadcasts
  • Videos – films, newsreels and TV broadcasts

This website is a prototype, with plans to launch the full version in 2010 with over 6 million digital items.  I suspect their servers are currently overwhelmed, as I haven’t yet been able to successfully complete a search, but I look forward to exploring the site over time.

Update: According to news reports, the Europeana website crashed after receiving an unexpected 10 million user requests per hour, so the site will be out of commission until mid-December.

Millions of historic LIFE photos now on Google

Here’s a great new research tool– you can now search or browse through millions of historic photographs from the LIFE magazine photo archive on Google Image Search.

An excerpt from the announcement on Google’s blog:

We’re excited to announce the availability of never-before-seen images from the LIFE photo archive…. This collection of newly-digitized images includes photos and etchings produced and owned by LIFE dating all the way back to the 1750s.

Only a very small percentage of these images have ever been published. The rest have been sitting in dusty archives in the form of negatives, slides, glass plates, etchings, and prints. We’re digitizing them so that everyone can easily experience these fascinating moments in time. Today about 20 percent of the collection is online; during the next few months, we will be adding the entire LIFE archive — about 10 million photos.

See masters like Alfred Eisenstaedt and Margaret Bourke-White documenting pivotal world events, capturing the evolution of lifestyles and fashions, and opening windows into the lives of celebrities and everyday people.

Great news about Google Book Search

Like everyone else, I use Google dozens of times a day. Their web search engine is still the best I’ve found, but Google also has a number of more specialized search functions that I like and use regularly. By far my favorite is Google Book Search, which is not one of the main functions listed on Google’s home page, but it will appear if you click the “more” link.

Google Book Search enables you to search the full texts of all of the books stored in its database, which is made up of books scanned from the collections of cooperating libraries (including Harvard University, Oxford University, and the New York Public Library, to name a few) and digital book files submitted by publishers. For books in the public domain (published in the U.S. before 1923), you can read as much of the text as you like online, download a PDF file of the entire book, and print as many pages as you want. For books still under copyright, if the author or publisher has given permission, you may be able to view a limited number of pages (though you cannot print or copy any of the text), but most books are restricted to only a few lines or no preview at all. Google displays detailed information about each book, and you can see a list of libraries that have it or buy a copy from an online bookstore.

I love Google Book Search because it helps me discover extremely useful and interesting books of all kinds– old and new, in-print and out-of-print, primary and secondary sources, and valuable sources of information long neglected or forgotten. I love having instant access to complete works in the public domain that are out of print and not available through my local libraries. I love being able to search the texts of millions of books simultaneously for words or phrases– names, places, dates, subjects, titles, historical events, etc.

Google Book Search has always been controversial because it scans books still under copyright without obtaining permission from the authors and publishers, and Google has been sued by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers over it. The great news is, according to Publishers Weekly, the lawsuits have been settled, and everyone wins– millions of books under copyright will be searchable online, there will be a way to purchase full online access to many copyrighted works, the full texts of out-of-print books will be viewable for free on library computer terminals, authors and publishers will control whether or not their works are included and share in the revenue generated through online access to their works, a nonprofit Book Rights Registry will be set up, etc. As both a researcher and the wife of an author, I am thrilled.

Here are excerpts from the AAP statement detailing the settlement:

The Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers, and Google today announced a groundbreaking settlement agreement on behalf of a broad class of authors and publishers worldwide that would expand online access to millions of in-copyright books and other written materials in the U.S. from the collections of a number of major U.S. libraries participating in Google Book Search….

The agreement promises to benefit readers and researchers, and enhance the ability of authors and publishers to distribute their content in digital form, by significantly expanding online access to works through Google Book Search, an ambitious effort to make millions of books searchable via the Web. The agreement acknowledges the rights and interests of copyright owners, provides an efficient means for them to control how their intellectual property is accessed online and enables them to receive compensation for online access to their works.

If approved by the court, the agreement would provide:

  • More Access to Out-of-Print Books — Generating greater exposure for millions of in-copyright works, including hard-to-find out-of-print books, by enabling readers in the U.S. to search these works and preview them online;
  • Additional Ways to Purchase Copyrighted Books — Building off publishers’ and authors’ current efforts and further expanding the electronic market for copyrighted books in the U.S., by offering users the ability to purchase online access to many in-copyright books;
  • Institutional Subscriptions to Millions of Books Online — Offering a means for U.S. colleges, universities and other organizations to obtain subscriptions for online access to collections from some of the world’s most renowned libraries;
  • Free Access From U.S. Libraries — Providing free, full-text, online viewing of millions of out-of-print books at designated computers in U.S. public and university libraries; and
  • Compensation to Authors and Publishers and Control Over Access to Their Works — Distributing payments earned from online access provided by Google and, prospectively, from similar programs that may be established by other providers, through a newly created independent, not-for-profit Book Rights Registry that will also locate rightsholders, collect and maintain accurate rightsholder information, and provide a way for rightsholders to request inclusion in or exclusion from the project.

Under the agreement, Google will make payments totaling $125 million. The money will be used to establish the Book Rights Registry, to resolve existing claims by authors and publishers and to cover legal fees. The settlement agreement resolves… lawsuits [that] challenged Google’s plan to digitize, search and show snippets of in-copyright books and to share digital copies with libraries without the explicit permission of the copyright owner.

Holders worldwide of U.S. copyrights can register their works with the Book Rights Registry and receive compensation from institutional subscriptions, book sales, ad revenues and other possible revenue models, as well as a cash payment if their works have already been digitized.

Libraries at the Universities of California, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Stanford have provided input into the settlement and expect to participate in the project, including by making their collections available. Along with a number of other U.S. libraries that currently work with Google, their significant efforts to preserve, maintain and provide access to books have played a critical role in achieving this agreement and, through their anticipated participation, they are furthering such efforts while making books even more accessible to students, researchers and readers in the U.S. It is expected that additional libraries in the U.S. will participate in this project in the future….

“It’s hard work writing a book, and even harder work getting paid for it,” said Roy Blount Jr., President of the Authors Guild. “As a reader and researcher, I’ll be delighted to stop by my local library to browse the stacks of some of the world’s great libraries. As an author, well, we appreciate payment when people use our work. This deal makes good sense.”

“This historic settlement is a win for everyone,” said Richard Sarnoff, Chairman of the Association of American Publishers. “From our perspective, the agreement creates an innovative framework for the use of copyrighted material in a rapidly digitizing world, serves readers by enabling broader access to a huge trove of hard-to-find books, and benefits the publishing community by establishing an attractive commercial model that offers both control and choice to the rightsholder.”

“Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Today, together with the authors, publishers, and libraries, we have been able to make a great leap in this endeavor,” said Sergey Brin, co-founder & president of technology at Google. “While this agreement is a real win-win for all of us, the real victors are all the readers. The tremendous wealth of knowledge that lies within the books of the world will now be at their fingertips.”

Updates:

Here is Google’s blog post about the settlement.

Here the future changes to Google Book Search resulting from the agreement are explained.

Library resources you can access from home

If you haven’t visited a library website recently, you may be surprised to learn there are a wealth of free reference sources and research tools which you may be able to access from the comfort of your home, any time of the day or night.

If you have a library card, many public library systems give you free access to a wide range of electronic resources through their websites, including subscription databases, reference books, newspapers, magazines, and journals. For example, the Seattle Public Library offers free access to the Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford Reference Online (which allows you to search hundreds of Oxford University Press reference works in all subjects), the New York Times historical archive dating back to 1851, Britannica Online, and the AP Photo Archive, to name only a few. Many libraries also allow you to download digital audiobooks and ebooks to your home computer.

If you don’t have a library card, most libraries will allow you to use their onsite computers to access their electronic resources.  This is true for many colleges and universities as well. You won’t be able to access their resources remotely unless you are a current student or faculty member, but if you visit their campus libraries you can use their public terminals. University libraries tend to have a far wider and deeper range of electronic resources than public libraries, so if you are doing serious research, it may well be worth the trip.

Many libraries throughout the world offer free online resources available to everyone, such as their own “best of the web” link collections. One of the most surprising free services offered by some libraries is “Ask the Librarian,”  which allows you to ask research questions by email or live web chat. Look for terms like “Ask the Librarian” or  “Chat with a Librarian” on a library website, or use a search engine to find one.

Rare book library websites offer extraordinary and unique digital collections, online exhibitions, virtual galleries and showcases, essays and articles, collection and research guides, and bibliographies. Some of the best include the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, and the British Library, to name a few.

To find links to libraries around the world, check out Library Spot.