GBS and Students: Ed Van Gemert of UW-Madison on Why Students Want GBS

Although it is being modified, in the interest of better informing students about the Google Books Settlement, Students for Free Culture has solicited the thoughts of a variety of experts who are providing guest posts reflecting on how the settlement will likely impact students.

In this guest post, Ed Van Gemert, Deputy Director of the General Library System at UW-Madison, explains why students want to use Google Book Search.

At UW-Madison, we routinely refer students to Google Books and the University of Wisconsin Digital Collection. Several examples illustrate some of the K-12 and college use and wide adoption of electronic scholarly resources. Annual usage grows exponentially.

  • “I am a college student working on a cultural tapestry for one of my courses.  My instructor wants us to save photographs of the culture we’ve chosen to study on a jpeg file and it can’t be copyrighted. I was hoping you would give me permission to use some of these pictures for my project.  She wants an e-mail sent with consent to use them.  I can’t find pictures any place that aren’t copyrighted, and have been unable to gain permission from any site.  This is strictly for my final; educational use only.  Please help!”
    — University of Wisconsin Digital Collection:  Africa Focus
  • “I am an eighth-grade student.  I am writing to request information for a school project.  My social studies and English classes are involved in a large research project called “History Day.”   Each year this project follows a different them that is set by the National History Day Office, and for this school year our theme is Conflict and Compromise in History.  I am investigating the 1933 Wisconsin milk strikes.  For this assignment, we are required to study the person/idea/event/issue itself, the background and context in which it happened, and the impact/influence/change it brought about.  I am writing to ask for any articles or documents you could send me with information about the three milk strikes that occurred because of the strikes, and the effectiveness of the strikes.”
    University of Wisconsin Digital Collection: State of Wisconsin Collection
  • The State of Wisconsin collection probably has the greatest impact on K-12 students.  It contains thousands of images and hundreds of books documenting Wisconsin state history which is valuable for teaching and learning.  In this instance we were able to direct the student to primary source interviews, articles, and music of and about the milk strikes.  Many of the resources in the UW digital collection are open access.

    National History Day had multiple K-12 students focusing on Harry Houdini.  Copies of his works were checked out from the library.  Campus librarians referred groups to Google Books because four books and a number of articles by Harry Houdini are available full text.  Books available include:

    • Miracle Mongers and Their Methods:  a Complete Expose of the Modus Operandi,
    • The Unmasking of Robert Houdini,
    • Houdini’s Paper Magic:  The Whole Art of Performing with paper.

    Native American History classes at UW-Madison as well as National History Day K-12 students have exhausted the available print copies of Chief Black Hawk’s autobiography.  It is available at Google Books as well as other early materials on Black Hawk. Native American History classes have been referred to Google Books to access the Annual Report of the Board of Indian Commissioners 1820-1940.  Google Books offers a good alternative.

    An undergraduate researching the Titanic needed primary source materials.  Campus print copies of the congressional hearings into the Titanic were checked out.  The U.S. Congress Hearing on the sinking of the Titanic as well as the British inquiry into the loss of the Titanic was available full text on Google Books.

    Undergraduates in environmental history classes have been referred to Google Books to access full text of 19th Century County/Local Histories.

    Just some of the many examples of why students find value in using the digital scholarly resources now available in Google Books and the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections.

    — Ed Van Gemert

    Previous Posts in this Series

    Leave Yours +


    1. Google & Company (the libraries that supply Google with in-copyright works stole my book in 2008, in fact Google’s accomplice was the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My book is a genealogy / family history work. I was researcher, writer, typesetter, and graphics person, in short I put a lot of my time and energy into seeing just 200 copies of “Fevens, a family history”, printed. This is why I got upset on May 13, 2009

    2. Great post, would you mind if I linked to your fine words from a handful of UK focused blogs I run?

    • Comments are Closed