Digitized Latin American Collection signals steps toward open access

Brittany Wagner

As of last month, select materials from UT’s Benson Latin American Collection library can now be digitally accessed by UT students and by people living in the furthest reaches of the globe through a combined effort by Google Books and HathiTrust.

UT Libraries entered into a contract with the Google Books Project in 2007 that digitized 500,000 volumes from the Latin American Collection to be added to the online Google Books collection, according to Travis Willmann, UT Libraries communications officer.

Google started facing copyright lawsuits from author and publisher groups almost immediately after it began digitizing materials, and the process to transfer the digitized materials was halted. In 2008, HathiTrust was formed as a way to legally claim Google Book’s digitized materials and put them into a repository, Willmann said.

“Whenever the Google files were thrown into this limbo as a result of the litigation, they thought, ‘Wait a minute, maybe we can work with Google and the institutions that provided the original source materials, and we can leverage those and put those into a central repository and make those available to the larger world,’” Willmann said.

When UT joined HathiTrust, it allowed the Latin American Collection to be put in a repository where anyone can access it, according to Angelina Zaytsev, collection services librarian at HathiTrust.

“The University of Texas system joined HathiTrust as a member in 2014,” Zaytsev wrote in an email. “Through this membership, their users are able to download public domain materials and to search across all copyrighted books.”

Lorraine Haricombe, vice provost and director of UT Libraries, said the successful partnership with HathiTrust is “a big deal, and it should be the beginning step to other bigger things.”

Haricombe said the recent triumph of the Latin American Collection underscores the Libraries’ broader goal of open access. She contrasted her experience as a library director in South Africa with her experience in America and explained how that has pushed her to advocate for the open agenda.

“I take the motto of UT very seriously when it says what happens here can change the world,” Haricombe said. “I know how it can change the world in South Africa if people had the kind of access to research that’s happening here. [Open access is] a public good; it empowers people, it gives them equal access and equal opportunity.”