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HathiTrust Collections Survey Report

By Mike Furlough and John Butler

We’re very pleased to announce publication of the HathiTrust Collection Committee’s Collection Priorities Survey Analysis Report . This report summarizes the data and findings of the Committee’s Fall 2015 survey of members and makes key recommendations regarding HathiTrust’s current and future collection-related priorities. The report has been reviewed by the Program Steering Committee (PSC) and the Board of Governors and both have endorsed the report’s recommendations. The PSC’s written endorsement and response to the report is also available for review.

The report has proven to be very timely, as the membership deliberates major content and collections issues for the corpus including expansion to other formats, collection development directions and foci, quality assurance of the digital corpus, among other considerations. Already, the report’s influence is becoming apparent and some substantial decisions have been made based on the findings.

Among the recommendations, the most notable is that HathiTrust should continue to “concentrate on enhancing the comprehensiveness of the digitized print corpus.”  As the Program Steering Committee notes, the membership sent a clear message “urg[ing] the partnership to build on HathiTrust’s core and distinctive strengths rather than pivot in entirely new directions at this time (e.g., non-text formats). There is concern that such investments (e.g., in support of images, audio, video) might come at the expense of delivering a higher quality, more complete digitized print corpus.”  During its June 2016 meeting, the Board of Governors agreed with this assessment.

Thus HathiTrust’s collection development priorities will remain focused on “books” for the foreseeable future.  This decision will be periodically reevaluated as needed.  This includes not only monographs, but also serials, government documents and some other materials previously collected. However, “book” may be too imprecise  of a term given the increasingly fluid boundary between “books” and other text formats.  Thus, the Program Steering Committee will ask the Collections Committee to initiate an exploration of expanding this scope from books (often understood primarily as “print”) to textual materials of a variety of sorts.  This work has not yet begun but we will be sharing more information as it gets underway.

A second recommendation emerging from this study is that HathiTrust should take steps to improve the quality of the existing corpus, which would include addressing scanning, processing, and metadata errors.  To help address that recommendation, we are today announcing the formation of new Quality Assurance and Standards Working Group. This group, led by Paul Fogel of California Digital Library, will examine needs and recommend strategies, processes and techniques for making scalable and persistent improvements to the quality of materials preserved by HathiTrust.

The third recommendation is that HathiTrust should focus on improving and expanding services to members. The survey highlighted several areas of interest among members, including improvements to the deposit/ingest process, simplifying access for users with print disabilities, and the development of collection analysis tools that members can use.  The first two issues are matters of ongoing concern and HathiTrust staff have been evaluating and rolling out improvements over the course of this year.  Still, more remains to be done and we are committed to making these services more useful for all members.  Further, our shared print monographs and U.S. federal documents programs both require collection analysis functions and may provide opportunities for us to extend such functionality more broadly.  

In recognition of these findings, the Collections Committee’s charge was revised in July to give increased attention to actions and directions recommended by the report. On behalf of the Board and the PSC, we wish to acknowledge and thank the members of the Collections Committee, who put significant effort into the design of the survey, data collection, analysis of results and development of recommendations in this important report. The membership included: Carmelita Pickett, Chair (University of Iowa), Martha Hruska, PSC Liaison (University of California, San Diego), Sharon Farb (University of California, Los Angeles), Bryan Skib (University of Michigan), Claire Stewart (University of Minnesota), and Tom Teper (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign).