27 October 2008

New Online Book Resource [Site Review]

Recently launched, Hathi Trust bills itself as the "shared digital future", being a common digital repository that already has over 2 million volumes and 700+ million pages on its servers. According to their site, "HathiTrust was conceived as a collaboration of the thirteen universities of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation and the University of California system to establish a repository for these universities to archive and share their digitized collections."

Using Hathi Trust
This site is relatively new, and at the moment there is no single search-interface for works digitized under this cooperative, but their site mentions that this is an ultimate goal. For now, users have to use the search engines of various participating institutions (like the University of Michigan)to find some content, or can browse some of the collection through the Digital Library Interface, also particular to UMich.

Poking around, I found some interesting titles just by running a few easy subject word searches. A search on cemeteries yielded 164 results, including some monument transcriptions from Eastern Europe, and death records of European deaths in Southeast Asia. Numerous volumes record transcriptions from graveyards along the Eastern seaboard. Public domain volumes are full-text, those volumes not in the public domain are "search only", meaning they are not browsable:

Unfortunately, the results shown for intra-text searching on restricted, "search only" items, are uniquely unhelpful (note that you can't see the search results in situ at all):

The breadth of the collections seem to be interesting, and will be of use to most researchers. A quick search on Oakland, California yielded me (among other things) a 1910 report on the urban park system in Oakland California... this from the UMich library! Therefore, even if you don't see an institution from the exact areas of your geographic concerns, you should make an attempt to check out what you can of Hathi Trust to see what you can find. You may be pleasantly surprised.

In Conclusion

It's clear from Hathi Trust's site and the lack of a centralized searching function, that this project is in its early stages, and is first and foremost crafting shared digital depository practices for its central users, Universities and Archives. However, as the ultimate goal is to make the repository "available, to everyone, anywhere, any time", this is a site to watch, and one which, if successful, could give Google Books a serious run for its money.

No comments: