Research Libraries Collaborate on Shared Digital Repository

A group of the nation's largest research libraries are collaborating to create a repository of their digital collections, including millions of books. These holdings will be archived and preserved in a single repository called the HathiTrust. Materials in the public domain will be available for reading online.

The initiative was launched jointly by the 12-university consortium known as the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) and the 11 university libraries of the University of California system. The newest member of the collaboration is the University of Virginia. UC's participation will be coordinated by the California Digital Library (CDL), which has been involved in multiple digitization projects.


"This effort combines the expertise and resources of some of the nation's foremost research libraries and holds even greater promise as it seeks to grow beyond the initial partners," said John Wilkin, associate university librarian of the University of Michigan and the newly named executive director of HathiTrust. Hathi (pronounced HAH-tee), the Hindi word for elephant incorporated into the repository's name, underscores the immensity of this undertaking, Wilkin said.

As of today, HathiTrust contains two million volumes and about 750 million pages, 16 percent of which are in the public domain. Public domain materials will be available for reading online. Materials protected by copyright, although not available for reading online, are given digital archiving services to provide a reliable means to preserve collections. Organizers also expect to use those materials in the research and development of the trust.

Creation of the HathiTrust supports the digitization efforts of the CIC and the University of California, each of which has entered into collective agreements with Google to digitize portions of the collections of their libraries, more than 10 million volumes in total, as part of the Google Book Search project. Materials digitized through other means will also be made available through HathiTrust.

"The CIC Libraries have always worked at a large scale, with big collections, big user communities and high expectations for service," said Mark Sandler, director of the CIC Center for Library Initiatives. "They are not intimidated by big challenges, and will bring their comfort with this to the development of the shared digital repository."

"Researchers will benefit from the expert curation and consistent access they have long associated with the CIC research libraries," said Michael McRobbie, president of Indiana University. "Great libraries have long been essential to outstanding scholarship, and the HathiTrust collaboration among the CIC institutions, the University of California and others provides an essential tool for 21st-century scholars."

"Before this collaboration," Wilkin said, "the collections in each library existed in isolation. Now we are bringing them together, pooling resources and eliminating redundancies, and producing a valuable research tool that will be greater than the sum of its parts."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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