Strategic Visioning

In January 2024, the HathiTrust Board of Governors approved the organization’s Strategic Vision, the culmination of an intensive, year-long effort to imagine HathiTrust’s future. We developed the Strategic Vision through a process of organizational discovery. Christine Madsen and Megan Hurst from Athenaeum21 thoroughly examined HathiTrust’s past and present, engaged with members and other stakeholders, analyzed extensive stores of data, productively challenged our assumptions, and helped to distill a wide range of ideas into actionable directions and objectives.

The Strategic Vision emerged in response to the needs and hopes expressed by new and long-invested members. This clarity of purpose, along with HathiTrust’s sustained successes and long period of growth, positions us well to carry out the work detailed in our vision. We renew our commitment to the stewardship and preservation of our collection, the foundation of all HathiTrust’s work. Explore our strategic vision and learn how it brings our mission, vision, and values forward into our next decade.

HathiTrust’s Strategic Vision

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About HathiTrust

In its first 15 years, HathiTrust has collected, preserved, and provided lawful access to more than 18 million texts in more than 400 languages. Today we steward the single largest collection of digitized texts created by and for the academic community. HathiTrust depends on its members’ digitization, organization, and contribution of their own collections, and assumes a responsibility to its members—and to the world—to preserve and make these texts as accessible as possible. Preservation remains the foundation upon which our ambitions to be a vital catalyst for emerging forms of research, teaching, and learning are based. HathiTrust continues to do  this in bold and innovative ways that respect the rights of creators and publishers, and that reflect the diversity of voices and perspectives of the human record.

HathiTrust provides services for the common good of its members and recognizes the power of its collective action to contribute to the greater public good. HathiTrust began in 2008 with 13 members, growing to 210 as of 2023. In 2019, the adoption of a tier-based membership system enabled a wider diversity of institutions to join, significantly increasing the number of smaller member organizations. HathiTrust members now represent a wider range of organizational abilities, resources, and needs than ever before. Although today a majority of members do not contribute collections for preservation, the entire membership values and supports HathiTrust’s work to preserve collections for durable long-term access. Depending upon their capacities and abilities, our diverse membership supports HathiTrust in a variety of ways, such as contributions of staff time, deposits of collections, and through their financial support.

Creating our Future

HathiTrust spent 2023 examining accomplishments and lessons from our first 15 years of growth, expansion, and experimentation.  As a critical part of the infrastructure supporting researchers and libraries, we seek to strengthen the overall network, not only ourselves.  We reviewed our place in the current research, educational, socio-political, technological, and environmental landscapes to consider how we can respond to the challenges facing us.  Operating within a wider ecosystem, we know the only way to meet those challenges is by working collaboratively with our members and allied organizations to promote justice, create communities that thrive, and advance collective knowledge and understanding. We continue to look to our values of trust, access, equity, resilience, constructive engagement, and leadership as we promote and maintain access to the portion of the human record that we steward. 

HathiTrust’s preservation mission and role in sustaining access in the face of environmental change and geopolitical volatility will be important, and we must reinforce our technological and operational foundations to accomplish our work responsibly and sustainably. Supporting scholarship and research in the years ahead also calls for expanded and more equitable modes of access and more diverse and inclusive collections. Developments in the legal and computational domains will require us to continue engaging ethically with emerging technologies (e.g. artificial intelligence, machine learning, etc.) to develop transformative uses of the corpus.  As we enter our next 15 years, we commit to creating our collective future through trust building, humility, and accountability.


Strategic Directions 

With this new Strategic Vision, the lens through which HathiTrust will plan and execute its work will be re-focused on the collection, ensuring that it is rich, broad, discoverable, and useful. But staff, time, and resources are not infinite. To fulfill our values, ambition, and ideals most effectively, we must prioritize and focus our efforts and play to our strengths. Our Strategic Vision looks far ahead, while focusing and organizing work for a 3-5-year horizon. Our Strategic Directions and Objectives reflect the core priorities that will focus HathiTrust’s time, attention, and its members’ resources to fulfill our established Mission, Vision, Goals and Values, and to support conscious growth, scale, innovation, agility, and responsiveness in 2024 and beyond. While described separately and in numerical order, these Directions and Objectives are not listed in priority order, nor are they discretely separable or sequential in practice. They are overlapping, connected, and part of a symbiotic whole. 


1. Increase Access and Use
We will expand access to and increase use of copyrighted, open, and public domain works in the HathiTrust collection. 

    1. Investigate, analyze, and respond to the diversity of our users’ needs and practices. 
    2. Expand the modes of lawful access to in-copyright works, in partnership with the wider community.
    3. Identify more public domain works by further automating and scaling copyright review processes to identify eligible works. 
    4. Integrate lawful and ethical computational methods and tools into service offerings, access, workflows, and system improvements. 
    5. Engage other organizations involved in print preservation so that we contribute to the larger ecosystem based on our greatest and unique strengths.

2. Expand and Diversify the Collection
We will expand the volume and diversity of book and serial content in the HathiTrust collection.

    1. Enable members to identify, digitize, preserve, and contribute their unique content to the collection—especially that of underrepresented and historically-marginalized voices and perspectives.
    2. Invite organizations engaged in mass digitization of book and serial content, that are not currently members, to contribute and preserve their collections with HathiTrust. 
    3. Build collaborations in support of scholarship and our libraries that will enable us to develop a collection that works towards a more just society, and towards resilience in response to changing economic, social and environmental conditions. 
    4. Develop mutually beneficial relationships with scholarly publishers to enable increased discovery, access, and use of their open and in-copyright content.

3. Enrich Texts and Metadata
We will enable new forms of discovery, access, and use of the HathiTrust collection through large-scale enhancement of texts and metadata. 

    1. Apply existing and emerging computational tools and methods in service of text and metadata improvement.
    2. Actively manage and share bibliographic metadata entrusted to our care.
    3. Prioritize investments in enriching text and metadata to make the collection more discoverable, findable, and usable.  

4. Invest In Core, Enabling Infrastructure
We will reinforce our technological and operational foundations to preserve and steward the HathiTrust collection responsibly, sustainably, and effectively. 

    1. Ensure resilience and sustainability of our preservation infrastructure by addressing technical debt in legacy systems. 
    2. Improve the search and discovery of all collections, in multiple languages. 
    3. Streamline the collections ingest deposit process.
    4. Develop robust collection analysis tools and usage statistics for both operational uses and for members’ uses. 
    5. Increase our capacity to assess, develop, and integrate advanced and emerging computational methods into our work and offerings, and do so responsibly and ethically.

4 directions in a visual graph showing invest in core, enabling infrastructure as the foundation of the other three.

Who Was Involved & Research Activities

Librarians and staff at our member institutions participated throughout the process, providing a variety of perspectives in every phase. HathiTrust staff shared additional insight, as well as logistical support to the entire process. A group of strategic leaders representing the breadth and depth of the membership provided consistency and continuity throughout the project as the Strategic Visioning Task Force.

Mike Furlough, HathiTrust Executive Director, Co-Chair
Claire Stewart, Chair of HathiTrust Board of Governors, UIUC, Co-Chair

Megan Hurst, Athenaeum21 (A21)
Christine Madsen, Athenaeum21 (A21)

HathiTrust Strategic Visioning Task Force

Theresa Byrd, Dean, University Library, University of San Diego
Daniel Dollar, Associate University Librarian for Scholarly Resources, Yale University
Kristina Hall, Copyright Review Program Manager, HathiTrust
Dracine Hodges, Associate University Librarian for Collections Services, Duke University
Anne Houston, Director of Libraries and College Librarian, Swarthmore College
Beth Namachchivaya, University Librarian, University of Waterloo
Lorrie McAllister, Associate University Librarian for Collection Services and Analysis, Arizona State University
Nathan Mealey, ​​Associate University Librarian for Discovery & Access, Wesleyan University
Catherine Mitchell, Director of Publishing, Archives, and Digitization, California Digital Library
Bethany Nowviskie, Dean of Libraries and Professor of English, James Madison University
Trevor Owens, Director of Digital Services, Library of Congress
Denise Pan, Senior Associate Dean of University Libraries for Collections and Strategic Partnerships, University of Washington
Claire Stewart, Dean of Libraries, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign

Hundreds of individuals from 140 different member libraries and peer organization participated in the following activities, the responses to which helped guide the creation of the vision.

  • 62 1-hour interviews
  • 267 responses to an online survey
  • 19 Strategic Visioning workshops:
  • 8 Workshops with the Visioning Task Force
  • 7 Staff Workshops
  • 1 Board Prioritization Workshop
  • 1 in-person, all-day Workshop with the Board and members of the VTF and PSC
  • 2 Member Workshops (1 in GMT+ timezones to include international members)
  • 2023 Fall Membership Meeting, with polls and VTF panel discussion of poll results

Review the complete year-long process. For more information or to share your thoughts on HathiTrust’s future, please contact us.