Civil rights leaders call for equal access to knowledge through digitized books

Much of the world's knowledge is trapped in physical books. People fortunate enough to attend large research institutions like Stanford or the University of Michigan can access vast library collections, but people living in inner cities or rural areas have a much harder time accessing this level of knowledge.

We're hoping to help change that. Under an agreement we announced last year with authors and publishers, Google will be able to make millions of books from major research libraries more accessible for all Americans, including those in minority, disability, and other communities that have typically lacked equal access to information.

That was the focus of an event that we co-hosted this week with the Institute of Intellectual Property and Social Justice at Howard University School of Law. Distinguished voices from civil rights, academic, and library organizations joined Google Senior Vice President David Drummond to discuss the legal, technical, and social barriers that must be overcome to truly equalize access to knowledge.

Equalizing access is about more than one product or one company -- but we're glad that Google Books can be a part of the solution. As Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, put it:
"If there's one last frontier that we have to conquer on the road to equal opportunity in America, it's access to knowledge, access to quality public education, and access to higher education for all... The Google Book Search project is a unique contribution to that effort."

We'll be making video of the entire event available in the next few days. In the meantime, check out what Wade and our other panelists had to say about Google Books in these short videos.

Update (8/25/09): The full video of the event is now available on YouTube.

"A down payment on equal opportunity..."
-- Wade Henderson, President and CEO, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR)

"Millions and millions of books that blind people could never get before -- they’ll now be able to get through digitized formats..."
-- Charles S. Brown, Esq., Legal Consultant to the President of the National Federation of the Blind

"We're very confident that the great benefits of this tool are going to be transforming in nature..."
-- Brent Wilkes, National Executive Director, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)

"We believe it is a way to eliminate that digital divide..."
-- Rhea Ballard-Thrower, Associate Professor and Director of the Law Library, Howard University School of Law

"Geographic barriers, economic barriers, language barriers – all of those things will be become diminished..."
-- Lateef Mtima, Professor of Law and Founder and Director of the Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice, Howard University School of Law
(Check out the text of Professor Mtima's remarks for the event.)