One of campus’s most seasoned administrators is taking over the library system at a crucial time in a Google’s mission to digitally copy to more than 7 million volumes in the University’s 19 libraries.
Paul Courant, a School of Public Policy professor who served as provost from 2002 to 2005, was appointed University librarian and dean of University libraries on Friday. He will take over March 1.
Although Google expects to complete the copying within four or five years, the company has faced opposition from some publishers who argue that the project infringes on their copyrights.
Courant said he hopes the project will make it easier for students and faculty to find specific texts. Many students do not take advantage of library materials that could further help them in their studies, he said.
“We have this enormous amount of educational material,” Courant said. “It is the job of the library to help students figure out how to sort out the good stuff from the not-so-good stuff.”
Courant said he has prepared for the job by researching how a library operates as part of a university.
The Google project represents a larger trend as students abandon old-fashioned ways of finding information. Tracking down specific pieces of information has become a challenge on the Internet because of its enormity, Courant said. He said the Google project will help students find trustworthy sources in context with citations, which will prevent students from using the disreputable information that pervades the Internet.
“The problem lies in trying to trace down specific texts in the vast electronic world of endless amounts of materials,” Courant said. “The challenge of the library is to organize everything.
He said well-organized electronic material is the most important because that’s where everyone looks first.
A faculty member since 1973, Courant said he plans to continue teaching courses while serving as librarian.
He said he is excited to work as librarian because the quality of a university can be seen in its libraries. Until the electronic revolution, it was the hallmark of a great university, he said.
“The University of Michigan library is one of the greatest libraries in the world. Now, we have to figure out how to use it well,” Courant said
The University is one of a handful of universities participating in the digitization process. The project uses special technology to scan the libraries’ collections.
The project aims to digitize the University’s entire library collection by 2010.