search

A Century of Agriculture Research Goes Online

From left, Jeff Piestrak, Michelle Paolillo and Sarah Kennedy hold books now available in digital form. Photo by Carla DeMello/Provided.

A rich trove of once-hidden Cornell agricultural research from journals and other serial publications is now available to the public.

Cornell University Library collaborated with Kathryn J. Boor ’80, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), to release copyright restrictions on more than 1,700 documents published between 1880 and 1996. This material – produced by scholars at CALS, including the Cornell University and New York State Agricultural Experiment Stations, as well as Cornell Cooperative Extension – can now be searched, downloaded and read on HathiTrust, a digital library of more than 15 million volumes, of which Cornell University Library is a partner.

“There’s a lot of historical value here,” said Sarah Kennedy, collection development and digital collections librarian at Mann Library. “This material shows how approaches to agriculture have changed over time, which is important to scientists and historians of science. Having this material broadly accessible also helps to unveil the rich history of Cornell research.”

For example, all issues of the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium journal “Baileya,” from 1953 to 1996, are now fully accessible.

To make these works available, Mann librarians and staff partnered with the library’s Digital Scholarship and Preservation Services department to curate a list of titles published by CALS researchers that were already in HathiTrust in digital form but not widely accessible because of copyright restrictions.

Boor, representing CALS as the publisher of this content, authorized release of these texts under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. This license, the least-restrictive Creative Commons license available, allows users to distribute, tweak and build upon the work, as long as it is credited to Cornell.

“More than a century of CALS expertise has shaped agriculture in New York, the U.S. and across the globe by making farmland more productive, our crops increasingly resilient and our food more nutritious,” said Boor. “Unearthing the research in this way is a natural extension of our mission to create knowledge with public purpose.”

Now, instead of being locked down from public view the work is available to any who are interested, helping to fulfill CALS’ Land-Grant mission by making scholarship free and open.

“This was essentially closed content – scholars had very limited access, and the text could not be read online,” said Michelle Paolillo, digital curation services lead for the library. “This was a great way to engage with the digitization efforts of many libraries to enable full access of important research, and to suggest a way for other libraries to do the same.”

Melanie Lefkowitz is staff writer, editor and social media coordinator for Cornell University Library.

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.