Library Truly Goes Digital

hands of a woman holding an ipad. books spines on a shelf are displayed on the ipad
April 1, 2017

Library Digitizes Everything (and we mean everything)

The Kathryn A. Martin Library is proud to announce the completion of the long-awaited Knowledge for All initiative. Since mid-2014, the library staff has been hard at work scanning each page of each book in the library onto the computer. “The goal of this initiative was to make the information on our shelves more accessible to the digital generation,” said librarian Kayleen Jones. “Most of our students have grown up using computers and find them easier to use than books.” 

UMD sophomore Hazel Seaver agreed. “One thing I’ve always found annoying about books is that you can’t search for a particular word or phrase in a book with a search function. You have to actually skim the whole book, or even worse, read it. Having all the books on a computer will make things a lot easier.” 

UMD Library Director Matt Rosendahl was very excited about the new initiative. "Once we decided to ignore copyright laws, it was a pretty easy program to get going," stated Rosendahl. "We started on the 3rd floor and just started scanning. Page after page after page was turned into ones and zeroes. Then we went through and added character recognition, image descriptions, finding aids, as well as inter-indexing of all our books. We had five catalogers creating metadata around the clock..."

Of course, like with every great idea, there are skeptics, such as senior Ed Savage. “There’s something about the smell of paper in old books and the feel of the pages turning. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but a computer could never replace that.” 

However, the general reception to the Knowledge for All initiative has been overwhelmingly positive. It has been so positive, in fact, that the decision has been made to update the library at the end of the semester. All 175,000 books will be stored in Kirby Student Center's Underground before they are sold at a garage sale. "In the place of all those books, the library is installing 20 color printers so students can print books out and highlight them," exclaimed Rosendahl.

With completion of the Knowledge for All project, the library is embarking on a year-long effort to digitally recreate the conscious mind of one of the Research Librarians. "If all knowledge can now be found on the world wide web, we better have a qualified librarian in that space to guide students," said Jones.