Yale and Microsoft partner on digitisation project

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Thousands of rare books from Yale University's Library will be available online thanks to a deal between Yale University and Microsoft. The agreement will lead to the digitisation of many volumes found only in the Yale collections.

The Microsoft-Yale project will initially focus on the digitisation of 100,000 out-of-copyright English-language books, which will then become available to readers through Microsoft’s Live Search interface.

‘Yale’s position as one of the world’s leading research libraries makes it appropriate that we should be providing global digital access to increasing quantities of our rare and unique material,’ said Alice Prochaska, Yale’s university librarian. ‘This exciting partnership with Microsoft gives us the platform to do so.’

The partners have selected Kirtas Technologies to carry out the process based on their proven excellence and state-of-the art equipment. The library has successfully worked with Kirtas previously, and the company will establish a digitisation centre in the New Haven area.

Hundreds of thousands of items have already been digitised from the holdings of the Visual Resources Collection, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the Lewis Walpole Library, Manuscripts and Archives, the Medical Historical Library, and other libraries and collections. The latest initiative is expected to produce substantial benefits for the Yale community and for researchers worldwide. These include: being able to reunite collections virtually that are physically housed in different repositories; allowing the full text to be indexed, which enables researchers to locate relevant material not accessible through traditional indexes or library catalogues; giving faculty enhanced electronic access to scholarly materials; and increasing student access to digital research and instructional materials.

The project promises to maintain rigorous standards for the quality and usability of the digital content, and for the safe and careful handling of the physical books. Yale and Microsoft will work together to identify which of the approximately 13 million volumes held by Yale’s 22 libraries will be digitised. Books selected for digitisation will also remain available for use by students and researchers in their physical form.