While rapidly advancing technology allows many aspects of the university to run more efficiently, concerns were raised by a board of scholars at a Georgetown symposium last Friday on the impact the Google Books Library Project, which has digitized 7 million texts, will have on the future of Georgetown’s various library collections.

At the eighth Scholarly Communication Symposium on Google and the Future of Higher Education, sponsored by the Georgetown University Libraries Scholarly Communication Team and moderated by Richard Brown, director of the Georgetown University press, scholars discussed the ramifications of a settlement of a class-action lawsuit against Google for their Google Books Library Project and how this may affect the university.

According to university librarians, the presence of physical volumes will increase in the future, rather than decrease. Georgetown’s Library Master Planning process outlines the university’s plans to double the size of its print collections to 4 million volumes over the next 20 years, said Mark Jacobs, associate university librarian for external affairs and communications.

“As [of] yet there is no viable alternative technology as adaptable and usable as a printed book. Georgetown’s curriculum has significant strengths in the humanities and social sciences, fields that rely on books,” Jacobs said in a statement. “Georgetown’s particular international focus also means we collect materials from across the globe. In many regions, printed books will remain the principal means of scholarly communication for sometime to come.”

While the university libraries will be increasing the number of physical volumes, they will also take advantage of the growing presence of e-texts, according to the university librarian of Lauinger Library, Artemis Kirk.

“. I would say rather that the library plans to optimize and maximize the potential of e-books for the Georgetown community. We already acquire nearly 400,000 e-texts but we purchase these from e-publishers,” Kirk said in an e-mail.

According to Jacobs, print reference and scholarly journal collections will likely be reduced as many publishers reduce their print editions and as online resources can be used much more efficiently.

The discussion also focused on the settlement of a class-action lawsuit against the Google Books Library Project, originally initiated three years ago as announced by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers on Oct. 28. Authors and publishers claimed that Google had been violating copyright rules by digitizing texts obtained through various libraries without permission.

The settlement stipulates that Google must pay $125 million to right holders, cover legal costs and create a books rights registry. Authors and publishers will be able to submit claims until 2010, and in return, Google will be able to index books and display up to 20 percent of the text in preview mode. Google will obtain the additional revenue to pay copyright holders by selling advertisement and access to complete digital text.

“[The settlement] means Google may well become the only game in town for serious online access to books,” said James Grimmelmann, associate professor at New York University Law School, at Friday’s symposium.

According to Kirk, the use of the Google Books Library Project is not a practical replacement for physical books at this time, as it is still surrounded with many legal issues. There also remain many questions regarding the quality of scans.

“It’s going to be a while before we see just how the `Google settlement’ plays out in action. [There are] still lots of restrictions on what you can get, and lots of problems with the quality – bad scans, incomplete information about what you have [and] about what you can get,” university Provost James O’Donnell said in an e-mail.

Associate Provost Marjory Blumenthal said that there will definitely be a growth in virtual books.

“So for the foreseeable future I expect parallel and complementary physical and virtual literature as people experiment with the online and come to understand how well it does and does not substitute for books,” Blumenthal said.

-Contributing writer Natalie Sykes contributed to this article.

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