To the online book depository!

The University’s partnership with Google increases access to information.

Carl Sagan once wrote, “History is full of people who out of fear, or ignorance, or lust for power have destroyed knowledge of immeasurable value which truly belongs to us all. We must not let it happen again.”

On down the ages, the greatest collections of human knowledge have been sadly subjected to the whims of invaders, treated as spoils of war or were simply vulnerable to the same ravages of time and consequence that are no kinder to books than they are to their authors.

Mr. Sagan, then, would surely be pleased with the announcement last week that the University will be teaming with Google to scan an estimated 1 million of its libraries’ 6.7 million books into that company’s online archive. The University will be one of 25, including Oxford, Harvard, Stanford and each of the Big Ten universities that have opened their library doors to Google. The University’s 250,000-book collection of Scandinavian materials and its forestry collection have already been cited as inclusions.

Some have taken issue with copyright infringement, but only books published before 1923 are considered in the public domain and will be available in their entirety. More recent books will have small portions available online along with information regarding at which local library or bookstore people can find the book, which sounds like a very fine advertisement to us.

The archive is free to anyone with access to Google’s search page. If Google can find a way to profit from this remarkable step toward collecting all human knowledge in one place, accessible from anywhere on the globe, their compensation is more than deserved.

Just as papyrus or stone gave way to typeset, we now see this new digital language emerging as the next great means of communicating and storing information, and we applaud the University’s partnership with Google.

It’s been said that you can sit in a library and be at once in all corners of the earth. Someday soon, we might be able to say the same thing about being in front of our personal computers.