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Google Library Project Expands to Spain
Posted On October 9, 2006
The Universidad Complutense Madrid ( has become the first library in continental Europe and in a non-English speaking country to join the 2-year-old Google Book Search program. With 3 million volumes, the Complutense Library is the second largest in Spain, following only the National Library. This addition will greatly expand Google Book Search's Spanish language holdings, but the library also has holdings in French, German, Latin, Italian, and English.

In the press conference announcing the accord, Carlos Berzosa, rector of Complutense, was careful to announce that only those books in the public domain will be digitized. Copyright in Spain, according to the Law of Intellectual Property (Real Decreto Legislativo 1/1996, April 12) extends 70 years after the death of the author.

A well-developed university Web site explaining the program was available immediately ( It outlined benefits to the Biblioteca Universidad Complutense (BUC) library user community:

  1. The project will provide access from any place with an Internet connection.
  2. Not just the title and bibliographic description will be searchable, but soon the complete text, which users will also be able to browse and display.
  3. The project will catalog all the digitized works, produce an inventory of works needing binding and restoration, and promote greater visibility for the collection.
  4. The project will provide access to the digitized collections of other Google Library Project participants, estimated at 15.5 million works in the public domain.

Complutense is the seventh library to announce a Google Library Project partnership. Oxford University, Harvard University, Stanford University, the University of Michigan, and the New York Public Library co-initiated the program in 2004. More recently the 10-campus University of California dived into the pool (see the Aug. 14, 2006, NewsBreak at

Complutense has not followed the example of the University of Michigan and posted its contract with Google for the world to see. Indeed, according to a "Política de privacidad," it acknowledges the privacy of the contract between the two parties. Nevertheless, the terms sound similar to the those between Google and each of the other libraries already in the fold. Google provides its experience and expertise in massive digitization and assumes the costs of scanning, transportation, and storage when the scanning cannot be accomplished on site within the university. The library supplies the books and the experts who will determine what should be scanned, prepare the books, and supervise the procedures to ensure the integrity of the collection.

Mission and Money

Essentially, this means a huge qualitative leap for Complutense's digitization efforts, which are already claimed to be the largest in Spain and one of the largest in Europe. In addition to electronic versions of theses and journals published in the university, Complutense has the Biblioteca Digital Dioscórides (, which offers free public access through the Internet to the full text of a 2,500-volume collection of books (and 40,000 images) in the history of science and the humanities. It was funded with the collaboration of the nonprofit Fundación Ciencias de la Salud (Foundation for the Health Sciences) and GlaxoSmithKline.

With Google, Complutense claims that it will be able to achieve results within its 6-year project that would otherwise require 100 years to reach. Equally important is the lift in carrying out the mission of this important university in the nation's capital. "It is a unique opportunity to be able to democratize the knowledge that our library houses," said José Antonio Magán, director of the Complutense library. "For many years libraries have zealously guarded a large and important part of the knowledge of mankind. … Now we are going to open our doors, open our shelves, and throw the books open not only to the street but to the computer."

Magán suggested that about 10 percent of the library's holdings will be digitized under this program. This totals 300,000 documents, at least 135,000 of which will be books and journals published before 1866. Works from the Marqués de Valdecilla historical library are first up for scanning. Books from libraries in law, language and literature, and medicine will follow.

Spanish on the Web

Though significant, the Complutense project is not the first large digitization project to make Spanish literature freely available. La Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes (BVMC; was inaugurated in July 1999 through a partnership between the University of Alicante and Grupo Santander. It now has a collection of more than 14,000 books, journals, newspapers, and dissertations pertaining to Spain and Latin America.

Coincidentally, perhaps, just a week prior to the Google/Complutense announcement, José Antonio Millán, who writes on language and new communication technologies, published an opinion piece in Spain's leading newspaper, El País, under the title, "El español y los buscadores." This article was reprinted as "Spain and the Search Engine" in the Sept. 23 English-language edition, and it was also available in Spanish in the blog Bitácora Almendrón ( It refers to the lightning rod article by French National Library director Jean-Noel Jeanneney published in Le Monde ("Google defies Europe," Jan. 22, 2005) in the wake of the first announcement of Google's scanning project. U.S. media covering that article gave too much attention to Jeanneney's suspicion of the Google's corporate move toward "research-for-profit, cloaked in the appearance of disinterest," and not enough to his reasoned message questioning an excessive dominance of Anglo-Saxon science and English language in a multicultural Europe.

Millán considered the idea of creating a Spanish-language search engine with sophisticated text analysis capabilities and called on Spain's libraries, universities, businesses, and individuals to make their research and cultural history more available on the Web. More than 400 million people throughout the world speak Spanish, according to Reuters, but Spanish follows English, German, and French in the number of Web pages.

The Complutense announcement was made in conjunction with Madrid's Feria del Libro (International Book Fair) on Sept. 27, 2006, less than a week before the start of the Frankfurt Book Fair. That's where the Google Book Search program (then Google Print) was first introduced to the world a short 2 years ago. I am covering this year's fair for a future article in Searcher magazine. While there, I interviewed Jens Redmer, director of Google Book Search for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Redmer would not state whether the addition of any other new European partners was imminent. But Google is definitely looking for library collections from more countries and more languages. In Germany, said Redmer, "We have this expression: Don't divide the fur of the bear until you have killed the bear."

But Google is still hunting bear.

Susanne Bjorner provides editorial services to publishers, librarians, authors, and researchers from her base in Spain.

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