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Library plans
to use funds to
digitize books

Cavalier Daily, (August 30, 1996).

By updating its website to include more rare books, the University Library plans to take the reader's eyes off the page and onto the screen.

The University's Library received a $400,000 grant yesterday from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to update its web collection.

The money will be used to digitize 582 first editions of early American fiction and to finance a study. comparing the costs of maintaining the original editions and the electronic versions.

By using a specially designed camera, technicians will take digital photographs of the rare collection.

The fiction in the new electronic system includes "American Fiction 1774-1850" and the "Bibliography of American Literature."

"We believe that usage will go much further down the educational food chain than before," Electronic Technical Center spokesman David Seaman said.

"It will be put in the hands of many bodies of scholars," he said.

Seaman said library officials chose the books because they are "one of our real treasures in our holdings."

The books are circulated often among high school, college and graduate students for research purposes, he said.

Besides expanded research capabilities, the website is cheaper than maintaining and storing the books.

Instead of spending $33 to keep one book in the library, the electronic alternative uses minimal funds for maintenance.

The rest of the money will be used to hire an employee to convert the 125,000 images from paper to screen and to store the images on CD-ROMs.

Library officials proposed the program one year ago to highlight the University's prominence in the field of electronic text.

The Melon Foundation granted the money because the University] has an ongoing program to support and finance technology," said Richard Ekman, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation secretary.

Project supporters expect the implications of readily available literary information will transfer to other departments, like math and history.

"This is a model project," Assoc. University Librarian Kendon Stubbs said. "Scholars will be able to look at a math textbook from the 1920s to look up old formulas for research, for example."

Although the Mellon Foundation funding provides only for the next two years, the University plans to continue its research of Internet cost effectiveness and usage.

"The few years we've put money in for the program is enough." Ekman said.

Seaman, however, hopes to broaden the program and obtain more funding.

"There's enough to complete the collection as it stands," he said. "I'm hoping to find ways to continue with funding once it's done because we have a very rich holding."


Lauren Shepherd.