Last week while on the reference desk, I had a faculty member that needed a book…fast. Our library has the copy he needed in our library service center; we could have gotten it into the library by that afternoon. But he would have missed an important deadline. So, I went searching online. I started, of course, at Google Books. Now I should point out at this time, this was a novel from the 1920’s. Google Books had a few pages, and I let the faculty member know this. I cleared it with him that it would be fine to have a digital copy.
Next stop, I did a search in Worldcat, but only turned up the incomplete scanned version in Google Books. Next, I turned to my iPhone, and did several quick checks in two of my online book readers: Stanza, and Bookshelf. Nothing. After several searches in Google, I was lucky enough to come across a link to a University of Chicago catalog record. As I clicked through, it would not let me in, but once I edited out the proxy server information, and put that into the url box, I went directly to a beautiful scanned copy! I knew from the catalog record that the digital version was available with no restrictions, and it was just the University of Chicago proxy that was keeping me out.
As a fun exercise, I gave the task of finding an online version of this book to the head of our Interlibrary Loan department. He logged into his OCLC database, and quickly found a copy–it seems that OCLC has cataloged many of the digital copies in archives. We are still investigating why it showed up in OCLC, but not in Worldcat. Perhaps a secret beta test?
Take away points: I am making it a part of my reference process to think about digital repositories more. Fondren will be creating a Libguide to address searching in these digital archives. Also, the Hathi Trust is an excellent resource. It is a collaboration of the thirteen universities of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation and the University of California system to establish a repository for these universities to archive and share their digitized collections. This will enable greater searching into hidden repositories.