Grant helps university digitize out-of-print titles

Wayne State University Press will digitize 59 out-of-print titles through a $94,000 grant from a joint project between the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), according to school officials.

The titles will focus on Jewish and regional studies, and will be freely accessible to the public through the websites of the Wayne State University Library System and the Press. This is the Mellon Foundation’s first grant to Wayne State University.

“Adding these titles back into the public sphere allows them to be discovered for the first time by new audiences,” said Jane Hoehner, director of Wayne State University Press. “Having this rich information available and accessible in a digital format helps us increase awareness and knowledge of key issues in the region’s history.”

Titles selected for the project fall into several sub-topics that reflect current programs: industrial and labor history, maritime history, Detroit history and biographies of significant individuals. It is estimated that all titles will be made available by December 2017.

The grant to Wayne State University is one of ten being awarded to a variety of institutions across the country.

The grants were selected through a rigorous review process that measured how the digitized books would be of demonstrable intellectual significance and broad interest to current readers.

“Through modern technology, these titles can be far more accessible than they are today,” said Earl Lewis, president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. “These books represent an untapped resource for scholars, teachers, students, and members of the public, many of whom turn to the Internet as their first stop when looking for information.”

The largest funders of humanities research in the United States, the National Endowment for the Humanities and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, made the grants to give a second life to outstanding out-of-print books in the humanities. Under the new Humanities Open Book program, NEH and Mellon awarded grants to publishers to identify great humanities books, secure all appropriate rights, and make them available for free, forever, under a Creative Commons license.

The new Humanities Open Book grant program is part of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ agency-wide initiative The Common Good: The Humanities in the Public Square, which seeks to demonstrate and enhance the role and significance of the humanities and humanities scholarship in public life.

“The National Endowment for the Humanities is pleased to join with the Mellon Foundation in announcing the first round of Humanities Open Book grants,” said NEH Chairman William D. Adams. “These ten projects will put important out-of-print books into the hands of the public, widening access to the ideas and information they contain, and inspiring readers, teachers, and students to use them in exciting new ways.”

In addition to making the books available, this new collaborative effort between NEH and Mellon will also better define the costs and benefits of digitizing out-of-print scholarship and making it available, at no charge, to the general public.