University of Wisconsin - Madison Google Digitization Initiative

Ask a Librarian

About the Google Library Initiative

The Google Library Initiative began in December 2004. The University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries are the eighth partner to join the Google Library Initiative. There are an ever growing number of libraries working with Google as part of this project: Google is also conducting a pilot project with the Library of Congress.

Google’s primary mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” As part of that vision the goal of the Library Initiative is to make it easier for people to find books and resources that they wouldn't find in other ways such as those materials that are out of print. The result of the project will be to create a comprehensive, searchable, virtual catalog of all books in all languages. Details of the entire Google Book Program can be found at

Google has designed the project to comply with copyright laws. Users will be able to access the full text of hundreds of thousands of public domain materials from the UW-Madison Libraries and the Wisconsin Historical Society Library. As materials are scanned, they will be made available on Google’s website at:

Why UW-Madison Libraries are participating in the Google Library Initiative

The combined library collections of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries and the Wisconsin Historical Society Library comprise one of the largest collections of documents and historical materials in the United States. Wisconsin is taking a leading role in providing access to public domain works for future generations and making the Library’s resources widely available for education and research.

This effort truly exemplifies the vision of The Wisconsin Idea—the notion that the boundaries of the university are limitless. Since 1904 the university has been guided by the Wisconsin Idea, a concept first stated by UW President Charles Van Hise. Van Hise declared that he would “never be content until the beneficent influence of the university reaches every family in the state.” Today that belief permeates the university’s work, fostering close working relationships within the state, throughout the country and around the world. The libraries have been following in this tradition. This project will enable the libraries to expand access to materials that have heretofore only been accessible in the libraries.

The resources will include materials from the Wisconsin Historical Society. Resources such as government documents, and state and regional collections related to history, the environment, and the arts will be more accessible to K-12 schools from the University of Wisconsin’s Web site as well as through Google Book Search. This project is instrumental in increasing the awareness of these materials in outreach efforts to K-12 schools.

The Development of the University of Wisconsin Digital Collection and How the Google Library Initiative Fits

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries Digital Collections Center (UWDCC) has been digitizing materials for years. Since its foundation in early 2000, the UWDCC has worked collaboratively with UW System faculty, staff, and librarians to create and provide access to resources that support the teaching and research needs of the UW community. Digital resources include text-based materials such as books, journal series, and manuscript collections; photographic images; slides; maps; prints; posters; audio; and video.

The Google Book Search Library Initiative is a natural extension of these digital collections. It will provide the Libraries with the ability to expand these digitization efforts and make significant inroads toward safeguarding great stores of human knowledge.

What the UW-Madison Libraries intend to do

Part of the stated mission of the UW-Madison Libraries reads “…the Libraries support the teaching, research, and outreach missions of the university by providing access to and delivery of information. To that end the libraries acquire, organize, make accessible, and preserve sources of knowledge in all formats….”

A primary mission for any research library is to store, preserve, and provide access to materials. Participation in the Google Library Initiative will enable the Libraries to fulfill its mission by providing access to public domain materials in digital form for future generations.

Free and unfettered access to the full text of digitized works contained in one of the nation’s greatest research university libraries will be available online from anywhere in the world.

What the UW-Madison Libraries will not do

The Libraries will not violate copyright laws. This includes taking every effort to not violate the rights of content owners to control the distribution and use of works under copyright.

Examples of materials to be included in the project

The Wisconsin Project will involve identified collections of distinction, as well as high use, non-copyrighted, i.e. public domain, collections that will include but not be limited to the following resources:

Federal and Wisconsin state documents, history of science, patents and discoveries, history of engineering, early publications of scientific societies, American and Wisconsin history, genealogical materials, decorative arts, visual/material culture. The following Web site has examples of these.


UW-Madison is pleased to partner in our digitization efforts with the Google Library Initiative. This partnership was undertaken with strictest attention to the rights of all stakeholders. These efforts, undertaken with a range of highly valued partners, supports access to public domain works, resource discovery, scholarly publishing, and digital collection development. As universities and libraries fully engage in the digital world, this project is the right way to gather the world’s collective knowledge and ensure its discoverability today and in the future.

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