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Penn State University Libraries

Google Books Project at Penn State


Project Feedback Form

Lisa German
Associate Dean for Collections Information and Access Services
510 Paterno Library
University Park, PA 16802

Ann Snowman
Head, Access Services
208-B Paterno Library
University Park, PA 16802

Mike Furlough
Associate Dean for Research and Scholarly Communications
510 Paterno Library
University Park, PA 16802

Google Books Project FAQs


Why did the Penn State Univeristy Libraries decide to join the project?

As announced on June 6, 2007, Google and the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) entered into a partnership that would allow Google to digitize millions of books owned by CIC libraries, including the Penn State University Libraries. The partnership allows for library digitization on a scope and scale that would not be possible without Google and will make CIC libraries’ content more readily available to a wider audience. As a part of the agreement, the consortium also created a shared digital repository (HathiTrust) to collectively archive and manage the full content of public domain works digitized by Google that are held across the CIC libraries. The shared repository will give faculty and students convenient access to a large and diverse online library with items previously housed in separate locations and connected only by online catalogs, inter-library loan policies, and reciprocal borrowing agreements. This new collaboration will enable librarians to collectively archive materials over time, beyond the Google project, and allow scholars to access a vast array of material with searches customized for scholarly activity.


Why did Google want to partner with Penn State?

Google wanted to partner with the CIC because we have such rich, deep, and enormous collections of library materials. Penn State’s collection is younger than many of our CIC peers, and most of our books have been cataloged and have received excellent preservation care, so we were ready to work with Google.


What other libraries are involved in this project?

The CIC, the academic side of the Big Ten, is a consortium of 12 research universities including Penn State, the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois, Indiana University, the University of Iowa, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, the University of Minnesota, Northwestern University, Ohio State University, Purdue University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. More than 30 other universities both nationally and internationally are also Google partners.


What is the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC)?

Headquartered in the Midwest, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) is a consortium of the Big Ten universities plus the University of Chicago. For half a century, these 12 world-class research institutions have advanced their academic missions, generated unique opportunities for students and faculty, and served the common good by sharing expertise, leveraging campus resources, and collaborating on innovative programs. As such, CIC Libraries have a long standing commitment to cooperative initiatives. Governed and funded by the Provosts of the member universities, the CIC staff are located in Champaign, IL.


How long will the partnership with Google last?

The initial contract lasts for six years, but is currently being renegotiated as a result of the Google Settlement.


How is the project paid for?

Penn State’s portion of the project has been generously supported by the Provost in anticipation of the potential benefits to scholars and the research process.


How many books will be digitized?

Because of the new contract, that number is unknown. Originally, the plan was to digitize ten million volumes. Penn State had committed to digitize up to 500,000 volumes.


Where will the books be digitized?

Google’s digitization process is highly proprietary; they do not disclose the location of the scanning center or the method used for scanning. It takes about 6-8 weeks for a shipment of Penn State books to be readied for shipping, loaded onto a truck, shipped off to a scanning center and returned to the home library.


Will digitizing harm the physical books?

Books are not harmed beyond the normal wear that occurs when they circulate to readers. Google staff take great care to handle the books gently and take pride in returning them in the same condition in which they were received.


How are the books selected for digitization?

In simple terms, we shared a snapshot of our catalog with Google for evaluation. They returned a candidate pick-list to us of titles that they had not already scanned and wished to include in their database. As we process the list, we discover materials that do not meet our own preservation criteria for outsourced digitization, so those materials are routed to the Libraries Digitization and Preservation Department for treatment.


Can I recommend a book for digitization?

Yes. We recognize that the pedagogy of digital scholarship is an emerging field and we are interested in digitizing materials that will preserve content, extend access and support new methods of inquiry.

There are also subcollections among the larger collection that merit special attention. Any work that meets with the approval of our scanning team will be considered.

Please use our Project Feedback Form to recommend a book for digitization.


How will Penn State preserve the digital copies of the books?

The digital copies of books that Google scans will be available in HathiTrust, the shared digital repository created by the CIC universities. Have a look at Use the “Send us Feedback” link at the top of the HathiTrust homepage to share your thoughts on the HathiTrust.


What does Penn State gain from its involvement in this project?

There are many benefits to Penn State:

  • In an era of interdisciplinary inquiry, we are developing partnerships across higher education that will enhance opportunities for collaboration among scholars and extend access to content that was once available only to local researchers.
  • The project makes Penn State’s public domain content easy to locate and use by anyone.
  • It also enhances the discovery of all the content Google is digitizing.
  • We enter into a shared digital repository (HathiTrust) with other CIC partners which provides access to their digitized content.

How does this project help Penn State faculty and students?

  • Digitized books in public domain are accessible 24/7 from anywhere in the world.
  • Indexing of digital content goes way beyond the table of contents or chapter headings; it gets down to the textual level and uncovers obscure references heretofore unsearchable.
  • Digital copies preserve hard copies, as they last longer with less handling.
  • Preparing the books to be digitized has resulted in better catalog records and itemization of materials which make them easier to discover.
  • Potential exists to develop new services around this digitized content. The project is rife with possibilities!
  • Students and faculty searching the Google Books interface will be directed to the holdings of Penn State University Libraries once the item has been scanned. Conversely, searching the Libraries catalog may result in finding a digital file.

How does this project help people outside of Penn State?

Displaying the Penn State University Libraries’ books in Google Book Search makes the public more aware of the Libraries holdings. Books in the public domain that are unique to the Libraries that have been scanned will be accessible to anyone. Books that are not in the public domain will be more discoverable and available via interlibrary loan.


Does Penn State digitize other parts of its collections?

Yes, the University Libraries have created many digital collections. Click here for the Digital Collections homepage.


The books I need are not on the shelf. What can I do?

If the book you need is not on the shelf, consult a librarian for suggestions of alternative materials. In addition, there are several ways to get a copy of a book that is being digitized:

  • Simply follow the catalog link that indicates “Material out for digitization” and request a copy from another library in North America via interlibrary loan. You can expect delivery within 10 days or so.
  • Place a hold via “I Want It”, and it will be set aside for you when it returns to the library in about 6 weeks. If another copy is available at another Penn State library, expect it to be delivered in 3-5 days.
  • Request a copy from another Pennsylvania Academic Library via E-ZBorrow, and it will be here within the week.

In all cases, you will be notified once the book arrives at the pick-up location you selected.


Can I read the agreement between Penn State and Google?


Aren't there legal issues with the project?

Yes, there are legal issues. In 2004, Google announced that it had entered into agreements with several libraries to digitize books in those libraries’ collections, including books protected by U.S. copyright law. Several authors and publishers brought a lawsuit against Google, claiming that its digitization without permission infringed their copyrights. In response to the authors’ and publishers’ claims of copyright infringement, Google argued that its digitization of the books and display of snippets of the books are permitted under the U.S. copyright law’s doctrine of "fair use." Rather than go to court, the parties are negotiating a settlement. The Penn State University Libraries remains involved with the project because we are obligated to the contract and anticipate that the outcome of the settlement will be favorable to continuing with the project.

For more information, check out the Google-Authors Settlement Resources page.


Where can I go to see a Penn State University Libraries book digitized by Google?

Check out the New Penn State Titles in Google Book Search page. A sampling of 20 new titles is added each month.

As you browse and search in Google Books, you may notice that a text has been annotated with the following: “Original from Pennsylvania State University”.

Technology development is underway so that our catalog records will direct readers to digitized copies as well.

So far, there is no method for limiting a search in Google Book Search just to Penn State books.


Why can I only see some books in full-text on Google Book Search?

A large proportion of the scanned content is still under copyright; and, without the rights holder’s permission, the full content cannot be displayed. However, the content is available for searching. Depending on the permissions available to Google, some portions of the text (snippets) are available for display. Sometimes larger portions are available and sometimes no text is displayed, only the bibliographic data. If that happens, follow Google’s instructions to find a copy in a nearby library or purchase a copy.


Who can I talk to if I have more questions?

To contact the project directors at Penn State, please use our Project Feedback Form.