Big data visualization of an open access digital library

With a huge hat tip to my friend and colleague Keith Manuel (paraphrasing):

American Libraries Direct, the American Library Association (ALA) online newsletter, links to a visualization of all the 14 million volumes in HathiTrust created by Prof. Ben Schmidt of Northeastern University: “A guided tour of the digital library.”

As you scroll down, you’ll see where the public domain books clump and where there are gaps. Data points are clickable, directing users to the digitized book that each represents. There is a definite ‘wow factor’ in seeing the constellations of written knowledge openly accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

From Schmidt:

The visualization here provides a new way of exploring this vast digital library using a new method that makes a visual arrangement of books possible based on the vocabulary they use, using the method from my new paper on “Stable Random Projection.” I’ve taken inspiration in this from some other other maps of large collections of books and images, but this tries to take on a considerably more diverse and important set of cultural artifacts.

You can visually browse through a library of 14 million volumes (about as many as there are books in the Library of Congress) and click on any one to see the original in the HathiTrust digital library.

Manuel suggests this resource as a possible point of departure for library instruction sessions.

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