Frequently Asked Questions about the Columbia University - Google Book Search Library Partnership

Columbia University has partnered with Google, Inc. to digitize select public domain printed volumes in the University Libraries’ collections and make them available online using Google Book Search. The digitization project will provide teachers, students, scholars, and readers around the world with an unprecedented ability to search, locate, and read books from the University's collections. The digital collection resulting from this project significantly advances Columbia’s ability to serve its academic community, as well as readers worldwide.

Below are answers to some common questions about this partnership.

Why did the University enter into partnership with Google?

Academic research libraries are defined by their collections. These collections now encompass not only print materials, but, increasingly, multimedia and electronic formats; new publications, as well as important retrospective and manuscript resources; English-language materials, as well as works from all world areas. Columbia University Libraries continues to build research-level collections in many disciplines, subjects and geographic areas, growing on average by over 150,000 printed volumes per year, while at the same time expanding one of the nation’s largest digital collections of electronic reference sources, e-books, and online journals.

The Google Book Search digitization project will let us provide online access to hundreds of thousands of texts from the University’s important collections, many of which are out of print, difficult to find or unavailable anywhere else. Google will make all Columbia materials scanned fully viewable through its website and also provide the University with digital copies of these works for local use and permanent archiving. The contract with Google is non-exclusive, so the University can work on other digitization projects if it chooses to do so.

As a research library, our mission is to collect material of value to teaching and scholarship, to connect people to the information in those resources, and to ensure access and preservation of our collections into the future. We believe that our partnership with Google will significantly advance that mission.

Why did Google want to partner with Columbia?

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top ten academic library systems in the nation, with 9.2 million volumes, over 65,650 serials, as well as extensive collections of manuscripts, rare books, microforms, and other non-print formats. The collections are organized into 25 libraries, supporting specific academic or professional disciplines. Together, the works digitized from these collections will contribute significantly to Google’s objective of making the world’s books searchable and discoverable.

What books will be scanned?

The Libraries will select from the several hundred thousand public domain volumes in its collections. No works that are in copyright will be digitized under the agreement unless the copyright owner gives permission. While the project will focus on bound, printed books to start, over time the project may include material in other formats.

How does the project help Columbia students, faculty and researchers?

Using Google Book Search, Columbia students, faculty and researchers will have online access to hundreds of thousands of works from Columbia’s collections much sooner than would otherwise be the case. We will also have the option of making material scanned by Google available directly from the Columbia website providing, for example, enhancements or customizations targeted to the Columbia community. University faculty and researchers will be able to incorporate this digital content into scholarly projects in various venues and will have access to the full texts of publications for analysis.

How does this project help people outside of the University?

Digitizing Columbia’s collections and making them accessible on Google Book Search will make them available to students, teachers, scholars and readers around the world. Columbia also can share portions of its digital copies with other libraries and educational institutions for their internal research and educational functions. Copies of all of its Google-scanned material may be shared with library members of the Digital Library Federation (, a consortium of libraries and others pioneering the use of technology to extend library collections and services.

What are examples of Columbia University Libraries' other digitization initiatives?

Columbia Libraries is a pioneer in developing web-based resources for online public use. From unique information resources such as the John Jay Papers Online, a database of abstracts and images of over 13,000 documents associated with John Jay, and the Digital Scriptorium, an image database of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, to innovative online tools such as web-based reference services and online public catalogues, the University Libraries has been an early and enthusiastic proponent of using the Internet to increase public access to the information held in our collections.

Are other libraries involved with the Google Books Library project?

Google is now working with 28 libraries: Columbia University; University of Michigan; Harvard University; Oxford University; the New York Public Library; Stanford University; University of California; University of Texas at Austin; University of Virginia; University of Wisconsin-Madison; Princeton Library; the Complutense University of Madrid; the Bavarian State Library; the Library of Catalonia; the University Library of Lausanne; Ghent University Library; Keio University Library; Cornell University and the Committee on Institutional Collaboration (CIC) schools, including University of Chicago, University of Illinois, Indiana University, University of Iowa, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota, Northwestern University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University. Google has also conducted a pilot project with the Library of Congress.

What will a scanned book look like? How will I search for it?

You will be able to search, display, and download the full text of digitized works from Columbia using Google Book Search. For examples and screenshots, go to Since all Columbia items will be in the public domain, all Columbia texts will be available in their entirety.

Where will the scanning take place?

The books will be shipped from Columbia University to a secure Google scanning center to be digitized.

Who is funding this project?

Google assumes the cost of digitization and the University pays for identifying and providing the books to Google.

What materials are in the “public domain”?

For users in the United States, the Google Book Search Library Project treats all books published after 1923 as protected by copyright, except for books to which no copyright was attached in the first instance, such as certain government documents.

Are you scanning books in multiple languages?

Yes. The Libraries hold books in many languages. We will digitize books in most, if not all, of them as part of this project.

What will the library do with its digital copy of these works?

Columbia Libraries plans to store all digitized books created as part of this project in a long-term digital archive, so that they can be retained permanently for the future. The Libraries will also put selected titles on the University’s website when useful for teaching or research.

If I need a book that’s out being scanned, how quickly can I get it back?

A book will be unavailable for the short period of time in which it is being scanned, however Google does everything it can to minimize the time out of circulation. If you need a book that is checked out for scanning, you can obtain it the same way you would any other item that is checked out in CLIO. The requested book should be returned and available in about the same amount of time it would take if you recalled it from a library patron or requested it from Borrow Direct or Interlibrary Loan. (For more information about obtaining items checked out in CLIO, see the Libraries’ Request It services at

Does Google track the books I read?

Unless you choose to log into a Google account, Google does not associate your searches or the pages you view with any personally identifiable information. Since it is not necessary to log in to Google to view public domain works, your use of Google Book Search to view Columbia titles can be private.

If you do plan to log in, to view copyrighted books for example, you should read Google’s posted privacy policy, at, to be fully informed. Google has also posted additional information about privacy and security at and on its blogs:, and

Where can I find more information about the Google Book Search Library Project?

Google has provided information about the Google Book Search Library Project as a whole at Google posts news about the project on its Book Search blog, Inside Google Book Search, as well as its Official blog.

12/13/07 LMK