October 18, 2017

Google Adds 12 CIC Libraries

By Andrew Albanese

Emory, eschewing the trend, decides to scan it own books

Google and the 12 universities in the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) announced last month they have entered into an agreement to digitize up to ten million bound volumes. In one swoop, the deal represents a two-thirds jump in the number of libraries worldwide participating in the Google Books Library Project, to 25 from 15. Under the agreement, Google will digitize “significant portions from CIC library general collections,” with each university to contribute “collection areas of particular strength and distinction.”

The digitization initiative will include both public domain and in-copyright materials and as many as five million public domain works held in CIC libraries. Two members of the CIC already had signed deals with Google: the University of Michigan (UM), Ann Arbor, which is opening its entire collection to Google, roughly seven million volumes, and University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-M), which had agreed to the scanning of select public domain titles.

CIC officials said the ten million volumes to be scanned under the new agreement do not include those already being digitized at UM and UW-M. The CIC also includes the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; University of Chicago; University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Indiana University, Bloomington; University of Iowa, Iowa City; Michigan State University, Lansing; Northwestern University, Evanston, IL; Ohio State University, Columbus; Pennsylvania State University, State College; and Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.

Terms questioned

Once the contract hit the web, critics warned that CIC libraries may not see digital copies of in-copyright books scanned by Google for a long time, if ever. That’s because, unlike previous deals, Google will not provide CIC libraries with copies of their scanned, in-copyright books. Instead, the copies will be held in escrow by Google.

On his personal blog, Digital Library Federation executive director Peter Brantley cautioned, “unless Google ceases business operations, or there is a legal ruling or agreement with publishers, in-copyright material…will be held in escrow until such time as it becomes public domain.” Further, should an agreement with publishers resolve the issue of Google’s scanning of in-copyright works, it’s likely that agreement would forbid the transfer of these copies to libraries. The exceptions are preexisting terms in the Michigan and Wisconsin agreements. The deal also includes a clause that has CIC libraries, the majority of which are public institutions, indemnify Google regarding copyright challenges.

Mark Sandler, CIC director and former collection development officer at the UM Library, said he didn’t disagree with some observations concerning the deal, but without the funds, time, and staff to undertake their own major scanning efforts, CIC libraries are satisfied to move forward on access.

Emory goes its own way

Officials at Emory University, Atlanta, have chosen a different route, scanning and selling their own books. Emory officials said they have purchased a Kirtas robotic book scanner, which can digitize as many as 50 books per day, turning each volume into a PDF file. After scanning, the titles will be uploaded to a web site where scholars can access them and, if they wish, buy “print on demand” (POD) editions through Amazon.com and eventually other channels, to help Emory recoup some of its costs.

“The key point for me is that this option allows us to retain much more control over digitizing our pre-1923 collection and reserving the right to freely make that digital content available to scholars and the public,” said Emory director for digital programs Martin Halbert. “The degree to which Google would have controlled the digitized versions of items in our collection was unacceptable, speaking as stewards of the intellectual assets of the library.”