Various marketing reference books are piled high at the UGA Main Library in Athens, Georgia. (Photo: Dori Butler)

Going to one of the libraries around campus is a hallmark of life at the University of Georgia. Quiet locations with a seemingly endless amount of resources, the UGA Libraries are great places to research or study. However, needing to go to a library for research may be difficult at times for students and faculty, and a desired book may already have been checked out. Thankfully, many of the UGA Libraries’ texts will soon be accessible wherever you are. According to the UGA website, the university is partnering with Google Books to digitize many of the books in its libraries.

UGA’s partnership with Google Books will preserve its impressive library and make it more readily available for a large audience.

The deal will have a large impact, helping students and researchers across academic fields. According to the UGA website, the university has 4.5 million volumes in its libraries, and of those, Google Books will digitize 120,000. These digitized versions will be available on UGA's library catalog as well as through the Google Books database and the Hathi Trust, a digital preservation repository. Many of these additions are not easily found online and are on diverse topics like the arts, economic forecasts, reports on peanuts and cotton and government reports from the U.S. and the United Nations.

Digitizing UGA Libraries’ contents will make accessing their resources more easily accessible to the public and flexible to individual needs. For example, someone with an illness may not have to leave their home and spend long nights on campus for research. If the book they are looking for is in UGA's library catalog, they can instead research at home. Likewise, having digitized books makes it easier for students not in Athens campus to access the same resources. A student studying abroad, for instance, could find a digitized book through UGA's library catalog that may not be available where they are. Furthermore, UGA Libraries has a limited supply of physical books, meaning that there may be a shortage of any given book. Digitized books avoid this problem, granting access to anyone interested in reading them.

The move also ensures future readers will have clean and intact reading resources. Major catastrophic events like a fire or tornado are rare, but they could quickly destroy the university’s supply of books. Without a digitized form, those books could be lost forever. In addition, books naturally deteriorate over time. According to the Library of Congress, paper from the 1980s is often acidic because of its chemical composition. This could cause books to break down over time, rendering them useless. The digital versions of books, however, will always be in good condition, preserving important historical records.

UGA Libraries play an important role in providing research tools to the UGA community. However, physical books limit their ability to support campus research because they are limited in supply and can deteriorate. By working with Google Books to digitize a portion of its collection of books, UGA is addressing the problem, creating copies of their volumes that will last forever and can be accessed by an unlimited number of people.