Wiltshire Heritage Museum library and Google Books

Since the appointment of David Dawson as Director of Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society and Wiltshire Heritage Museum in April 2008, the organisation have not rested on their laurels. The Museum’s library has just gone online via Google Books, and they are possibly the first organisation in the world to do it this way.

The Wiltshire Heritage Museum library has just gone online with a digital library created in just 5 months using the controversial Google Books service.

The Library has been collecting books about the history, environment and archaeology of Wiltshire for over 150 years, and has many rare and important books in its collection of over 8000 volumes. Until now, the idea of getting the library online has been only a dream for librarian Dr Lorna Haycock. Without Google, it would have cost tens of thousands of pounds, buying a computer system, exhaustive data entry and only a few of the books could have been scanned electronically.

Museum Director, David Dawson explained that the controversial Google Books service has a ‘My Library’ facility, where you can simply click on a book that you have found on Google Books, and then add it to your own digital library. Work began in May this year to catalogue the entire library, using Google Books, and over 5,000 books have now been recorded. Many of them have already been digitised, and the full text of many can be searched online. He commented “as far as we know, we are the first library in the world to have created a digital library using the Google Books service. As an independent charity, we simply couldn’t afford to get our library online until Google Books gave us this fantastic opportunity to enable people to carry out their research online.”

The digital library has now been launched through the museum website – www.wiltshireheritage.org.uk. Everyone can now browse and search the library online – finding books that contain detailed information about where they live, or about the history of their family. Director David Dawson explains “people can then visit our library to read the real books, discovering the wealth of material that we have in our fantastic library”.

While they have not digitised the text from their books, this is a fantastic start, and clever thinking. Most of their titles can now be searched, and thanks to the Google Books digitisation programme (the ‘controversial‘ part) the content of many out-of-copyright titles can be searched or downloaded as part of the Google Books Library Project.

Visit the Wiltshire Heritage Museum Library to find out more.

And as an aside, I ought to mention the Wiltshire Heritage Museum’s YouTube channel, which, at the time of writing, does not have many views on its videos. Their short films are of excellent quality, professionally produced, and really watchable – just the right length, and many of them featuring Wiltshire’s most famous archaeologist – Time Team/Wessex Archaeology‘s Phil Harding, who is no stranger to being in front of the camera. Go there at once, and watch some of them! Or better still, visit the museum – something I’ve shamefully yet to do myself!

(note to self, visit Wiltshire Heritage Museum!)

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