Thoughts from a roads scholar

Tuesday, March 20, 2007 at 6:15 PM

Once in a while, I read about a user's experience with Google Book Search and am blown away by the power of having over a million books full-text searchable. Take Jo Guldi, a Berkeley grad student in the depths of her dissertation research, who has spent the last two years deep in the stacks of libraries around the US and UK reading every book related to her area of historical research.

Last week, she rediscovered Book Search and quickly found twenty new books to add her to wealth of research. As Guldi writes, sometimes it's not easy without tools like Book Search:
To give just one example, this little puppy -- Henry Parnell's A Treatise on Roads (1833) -- one of the key texts for my dissertation exists on our campus in Berkeley's transport library, a quaint but understaffed, spare room hidden on the third floor of the engineering building, far, far away from where historians ever go. It wasn't actually on the shelf when I got there, so it took some patient emailing with the transport library librarians before the book was found, returned to the correct place, held at the desk for me, to be picked up during the library hours specific to that particular institution (10am-4pm, M-Fr). Wild with enthusiasm at having at last obtained it, I held the volume prisoner at my desk in San Francisco for six straight months. . . .But thanks to Google Book Search, these days of scavenger-hunt and tug-of-war are drawing to an end.

The rest of her post is definitely worth a read. And if you too happen to be interested in 19th century texts on road construction, Guldi includes a nice list complete with links.


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