Cultural Heritage

A UKOLN Blog for the Cultural Heritage sector (now archived)

Using Google Books at Wiltshire Heritage Museum

Posted by Marieke Guy on 5th October 2009

The Wiltshire Heritage Museum library has just gone online with a full digital library created in just 5 months using the Google Books service.

The Library has been collecting books about the history, environment and archaeology of Wiltshire for over 150 years, and has many rare and important books in its collection of over 8000 volumes. Until now, the idea of getting the library online has been only a dream for librarian Dr Lorna Haycock. Without Google, it would have cost tens of thousands of pounds, buying a computer system, exhaustive data entry and only a few of the books could have been scanned electronically.

Museum Director, David Dawson explained that the controversial Google Books service has a ‘My Library’ facility, where you can simply click on a book that you have found on Google Books, and then add it to your own digital library. Work began in May this year to catalogue the entire library, using Google Books, and over 5,000 books have now been recorded. Many of them have already been digitised, and the full text of many can be searched online. He commented “as far as we know, we are the first library in the world to have created a digital library using the Google Books service. As an independent charity, we simply couldn’t afford to get our library online until Google Books gave us this fantastic opportunity to enable people to carry out their research online.

Google Books

The digital library has now been launched through the museum Web site. Everyone can now browse and search the library online – finding books that contain detailed information about where they live, or about the history of their family. Director David Dawson explains “people can then visit our library to read the real books, discovering the wealth of material that we have in our fantastic library”. As Google digitise more books, increasingly you can search every word in a book. Users can sit in their office, search the digital library and find the information they need within seconds. Sometimes they can read the book on the screen, if it has already been digitised by Google, or they can get the book from the shelf in the library. For the museum, this is the key,  researchers are already using the Google Book catalogue to find the books they need, and then coming to the library to read the book.

David Dawson will be talking in more detail about the project at a forthcoming one-day workshop facilitated by UKOLN and funded by Musuems, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) and the South Western Federation of Museums and Art Galleries. The workshop, entitled The Social Web – An introduction to Web 2.0, will be held at Wiltshire Heritage Museum, Devizes, Wiltshire on 16th November 2009.

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