America's Biggest Universities Build 78-Terabyte Library, Still Missing Front Door

Today, 23 of the biggest public and private universities in California, Michigan, Virginia, Illinois and other states* announced a 2-million book online library made of 78 terabytes of information, 16 percent of which are free of copyright and ready for public consumption. Even though the press release says "public domain materials will be available for reading online," the search interface itself, however, has yet to be constructed.

The Hathi Trust—named in the spirit of wisdom, memory and strength after the Hindu word for "elephant"—will be an amazing repository of data. Currently its bibliography, containing the physical equivalent of 1,703 tons of literature, is only partially searchable by University of Michigan and University of Chicago library sites, but "there is currently no single global interface to the body of content in HathiTrust repository."

This highlights the real strains of safely storing the world's intellectual property—while being able to serve it up for public consumption. The Hathi website laments that it's still working on "a way that takes into account the large number of different sources of metadata and the different strategies each of the partners has for managing that information." It's the reason that library science can be as complex as rocket science. To put it another way, "Growing the world's largest library won't happen overnight." [Hathi Trust via Wired]

*Here's the whole list, in case you want to see if your uni is part of the elephantine operation:
Indiana University
Michigan State University
Northwestern University
The Ohio State University
Penn State University
Purdue University
University of California Berkeley
University of California Davis
University of California Irvine
University of California Los Angeles
University of California Merced
University of California Riverside
University of California San Diego
University of California San Francisco
University of California Santa Barbara
University of California Santa Cruz
The University of Chicago
University of Illinois
University of Illinois at Chicago
The University of Iowa
University of Michigan
University of Minnesota
University of Wisconsin-Madison
University of Virginia

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