Here is John Sutherland on Google Book Search ....

What we are witnessing this year is the beginning of the greatest act of recovered memory in the history of our species. The next decade will be the age of the unimaginably vast archive. More particularly, the dynamic and usable archive. The archive, that is, which hurls its contents at you, rather than requiring laborious spadework. [John Sutherland on how Google's library project could transform research | Education | guardian.co.uk]

There is some interesting anecdotal stuff here about digital availability assisting scholarship.

Mary Beard talks about how she serendipitously found two books which were bound together with the one she was looking for in Cambridge University Library. She later found that they were both available on Google Book Search.

Now if you’ve clicked on the links, you’ll have seen another joke here. Both these rare books are available on Google books, which is why I’ve been able to share them with you. So I could have got them on my screen all along, without bothering to arm myself with a pencil (no pens in the Rare Books Room) and hoof off to the University Library.
But the fact is that I wouldn’t have know about this if I hadn’t ordered up the Comic History and flipped through the rest of the volume. That’s where the UL and its funny nineteenth-century habits is always likely to score over Google books. [A Don's Life by Mary Beard - Times Online - WBLG: Why research is fun]

It is always gratifying to hear stories like this, to hear how a library can be a source of pleasure and reward in scholarly life.

At the same time, I think we are seeing more opportunities for serendipitous discoveries in our online systems. Whether it through relations built on top of collections (e.g. LibraryThing) or lists (e.g. Worldcat lists) or though some of the navigation and linking options that are emerging in Google Book Search and other services. In fact, maybe those services should introduce a bundling feature where given one volume they associate randomly, or according to some other criteria, a set of other things with it ('I'm feeling lucky') ;-)

RBVs - randomly bound volumes ....?
RBCs - random book collections ...?

Mary Beard blog via Colin Steele.

Comments: 1

Jul 24, 2008
Owen Massey

Goodness. It's not often that the Internet is criticised for not offering enough opportunities for serendipity - or as your recent post calls it, distraction (-: