Thursday, August 24, 2006
As a student and then as a researcher, I used to haunt libraries in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. I spent time looking for the books I needed, but also happened to find gems by chance, as I scanned the shelves I walked by. Fun as it was to find an unexpected treasure, I always knew that much remained hidden. Large libraries are way too big to just walk around and browse, even for an enthusiastic teenager.
Today, we're launching the Library Catalog Search feature in Google Book Search, designed to help casual readers and bookworms everywhere find gems in the libraries around the world. Queries on Google Book Search will automatically include results from library catalogs when appropriate. Each result includes a "Find Libraries" link to help readers find libraries that hold the book -- ideally a library nearby, or if need be, a library far away. For example, after reading Martin Gardner's book Fads and Fallacies, I wanted to follow up on Immanuel Velikovsky's books about scientific explanations for biblical miracles. Clicking on the "Find Libraries" link for Velikovsky's Worlds in Collision, I found that a copy was available in the University of Sao Paulo library.
This is true of many types of books in countries all over the world -- my colleagues in Google's Zurich office tell me about being able to find Harry Potter and the Chambers of Secrets for their nephews and nieces. In many cases, it's even possible to click through to the local library and reserve the book.
For this feature, we have worked with more than 15 library union catalogs that have information about libraries from more than 30 countries, as well as with our colleagues working on Google Scholar (which includes a similar feature just for scholarly books).
We would like to acknowledge and fete our partners who have collected information about the wealth in world's libraries with amazing thoroughness and care. And we're looking to work with union catalogs in other parts of the world so it can be just as easy for library patrons elsewhere to learn what their libraries have waiting for them.
If you're a library patron and can't find the books you're looking for, ask your local library to participate in this program. If you are a librarian at a union catalog and would like to work with us to help users find books in your collections, please contact us.
Here's hoping readers worldwide will use this to discover and explore the wonderful collections in the world's libraries.