KU Leuven Libraries and Google form partnership to digitise more than 70.000 books

21 Nov 2023 | Network Updates | Update from KU Leuven
These updates are republished press releases and communications from members of the Science|Business Network

KU Leuven Libraries and Google are excited to announce their collaboration in the Google Books Digitisation Project. Over the course of the next two years more than 70.000 books will be digitised and opened up to the broad public.

Today marks a significant milestone as the first shipment of 5.000 volumes is ready to be sent to Google to be scanned in full. During the coming two years over 70.000 books in the public domain will be selected and prepared for digitisation. These books and collections will be made freely accessible via the Google Books platform and KU Leuven’s own library catalogue LIMO. This collaboration follows an earlier joint initiative in which KU Leuven Libraries submitted its in-house digitised collection to Google for access via the Google Books platform. Thus, more than 6,000 public domain books and documents were uploaded and enriched with textual, searchable data.

Hilde Van Kiel, Director of KU Leuven Libraries, highlights the significance of the collaboration: “The Google Books Digitisation Project represents a monumental leap forward in terms of unlocking our collections. If we wanted to fulfil this project independently, it would take more than 99 years. Furthermore, this collaboration enriches our collections with OCR data, converting the images to textual, searchable data, a major benefit for researchers. By sharing our digitised collections on the Google Books platform, we extend our reach to a more global audience.”

The books are housed at four key KU Leuven collections: Special Collections, Maurits Sabbe Library, Artes and Campuslibrary Arenberg.

Highlights of the selection

  • Collectio academica antiqua or the old academic collection from the Special Collections. Important to note is that the entire collection will be available online and searchable by the end of the project in 2025, coinciding with KU Leuven’s 600th birthday celebration.
  • A wide selection from the Jesuits' rich heritage and research collections from Flanders and the Netherlands, preserved at the Maurits Sabbe Library.
  • A selection of 20.000 books from the 18th and 19th centuries, published by both prominent and smaller Belgian publishers, from the collections managed by Artes.
  • A heritage collection with a focus on the history of mathematics, physics, agriculture and geography preserved at the Arenberg Campus Library.

Stefano Reccia, Partner Manager EMEA: “The Google Library Team is delighted to collaborate with KU Leuven on the digitization of their substantial corpus of licence-free materials. This cooperation presents a unique opportunity to make significant progress in digitising KU Leuven's historical collections. The project is not only complementing the university's own digitisation efforts but will also provide researchers and students with enhanced access to these valuable resources. By facilitating the exchange of knowledge, this project represents a significant milestone in further establishing the Flemish region as a leading centre of learning.”

This article was first published on 21 November by KU Leuven.

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