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WVU libraries to send books to be digitized

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
September 23rd, 2008

The Daily Athenaeum, September 23, 2008

By Katlin Stinespring

The West Virginia University Libraries are mailing 10 books this week to Fort Wayne, Ind. to be digitized for public access from any location via the Internet.

This plan is part of a grant project which makes digitized copies of books available online on, and makes out-of-print or out-of-copyright books available to anyone. The books are scanned and imported to the online archives.

The University is sending books selected from the rare books collection, many of which are written on the history of West Virginia, WVU and the Civil War.

The digitization of the rare books makes the content more accessible, where in the past, patrons had to make an appointment or in some cases, come to Morgantown.

“Rare books in the WVU libraries are not for browsing because it causes too much damage to the pages. But when it’s online, an entire class of students could read the whole book prior to a lecture or the professor could pull the book up during class,” said Monte Maxwell, the Development and Public Relations Representative of WVU Libraries.

Other books selected are from the Appalachian collection, which is one of the top three collections in the United States of Appalachian-themed books.

“What is interesting in the instance of rare books or archives is that you may be able to see notes that previous readers made, such as the actual author of the book or historical figures,” said Maxwell.

When placed online, the books are formatted as flipbooks and the pages remain unchanged from what they were long ago.

“Just like when someone opened this book in the 1800s, you are seeing exactly what they saw hundreds of years ago,” said Maxwell.

Dean of WVU Libraries, Francis O’Brien also chose older materials collected by a previous dean about Africa.

In the future, the WVU Libraries will be able to choose additional selections to be digitized for online browsing and research.

O’Brien said the archiving program is particularly important to developing countries and people who live far from research universities or other institutions.

When the hard copies show up on the computer screen, it’s in a flip book format – exactly as they would appear in one’s hand.

The copies remain original along with any kind of notations or library identifications.

“It’s not the same as looking at the primary source material, but for most references (the digitized books) will be fine,” O’Brien said.

Once the book is placed online, keywords can be found using a search function. The book displays clickable yellow tabs on the edges of the pages which signify the keywords.

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