Preserving the Treasures: Shared Print Phase 3 Pilot Outcomes

Shared Print

April 18, 2024

We are happy to share that we recently completed the Phase 3 Pilot! We added a total of 1766 non-circulating commitments. The completion and success of this pilot was only made possible through the partnership with our pilot libraries. 

Title page from 17th century book of poetry from ItalyFirenze, poema di Gabriello Chiabrera
Through their participation in the pilot, the University of Michigan uncovered a leather-bound volume of poetry by Chiabrera Gabriello published in 1628.


In early 2022, HathiTrust announced Phase 3 of our shared print program called the “Unique Non-Circulating Collection.” This phase of our Shared Print Program focuses on unique (owned by 1-2 HathiTrust members), single-part monographs held in the HathiTrust Digital Library that are non-circulating or in-library use only, in special collections, or that a retention library is willing to make non-circulating. The goal of Phase 3 is to transform how HathiTrust thinks about shared print by acknowledging and attempting to address the higher levels of risk associated with circulating shared print items and to empower our members by helping them identify unique materials in their collections. 

We created a pilot program to test assumptions about the value of these activities to our members, as well as to define policies and procedures to minimize the burden on participating libraries. We invited 8 current retention libraries and created three different groups based on the number of each library’s potential commitments, from 10 to 1,000 items.  The pilot libraries included Tufts University, Colby College, University of Wyoming, University of Alberta, Texas State University, University of Toronto, University of Michigan, and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. HathiTrust was thus able to work with and capture the experiences of libraries participating across different scales of commitments. You can learn more about the requirements of our pilot partners in the Pilot Library Expectations and Requirements document

We envisioned Phase 3 to be unlike any previous HathiTrust shared print phase and is distinct to the shared print landscape overall in its focus on uniting the digital and print preservation of unique titles. Phase 3 is an iterative project starting with securing commitments on unique HathiTrust single-part monographs focusing first on materials in the public domain. Future versions will include items not in the public domain.

For all iterations of Phase 3, the potential commitments are held by 1-2 member libraries, are non-circulating or in-library use only, in special collections, or the retention library is willing to make them non-circulating. Including a qualifying title requires a participating library to

  • Validate the physical item
  • Reconcile bibliographic metadata and review item condition 
  • Scan or digitize on demand
  • Consider accepting transfer of material ownership 

This was a huge undertaking for our pilots and required more resources than is typically required by shared print programs. Upon completion, considerable effort was taken to gather feedback from our partners. 

We were surprised by many of the pilot findings. Yet, there were also local library values achieved through participation. The majority of pilot libraries saw Phase 3 as a learning experience to better understand their local needs around condition and validation work. Several pilots reported using Phase 3 to undertake this work at a local level for a specific collection.

There were also pilot libraries who used their participation as a way to identify unique materials across HathiTrust members’ collections. Several reported they used this data to make collection location decisions, regardless of whether they committed specific items as part of the pilot.

There is a great deal of value in participating. Some of the things we came across were exciting to commit. [We] would have never come across these resources before. [We] found some real treasures and our data . . .  highlighted this.  (Ellen K.W. Mueller, Director of Technical Services, University of Michigan)

Most of the pilots also shared that access to data around uniqueness across the HathiTrust corpus and the ability to connect shared print more closely to preservation were of greatest importance regarding their decision to participate. To the majority of the pilot libraries, it was even more important to them than credits offsetting costs.

The experiences of our library pilot participants will significantly alter the direction we take in future iterations of shared print and take into account the entire lifecycle of collection management.

As a result, the following considerations need to be discussed more before a full launch of Phase 3: 

  • Value: The value of Phase 3 is the ability to understand local collection uniqueness across HathiTrust member collections, along with supporting HathiTrust and its members to preserve our vast collections. As a result, HathiTrust needs to work towards methods to help members identify unique collection data and gaps in our shared print commitments. We also need to find ways to connect future shared print commitments to other shared print commitments and programs so that when members are asked to participate in shared print programs they are not duplicative, and work towards identifying ways for shared print to connect to collection work libraries are undertaking locally.
  • Requirements for condition and validation checks: As it was outlined for the pilot, this is resource intensive work and is not scalable. Several libraries indicated they would not be able to participate in future iterations if this requirement were included. HathiTrust will need to review the usefulness and process for physical item validation, bibliographic metadata reconciliation, and condition review.
  • Data: Using data provided by HathiTrust to undertake projects can be onerous for members. HathiTrust should undertake a service design process to review our data needs around shared print. We need to better support our members while still enabling some of the data exports our members rely on outside of shared print.
  • Resources for shared print participants: Many of the common challenges expressed by our pilot libraries highlight an issue regarding the lack of dedicated staff to undertake shared print or general special collection projects. HathiTrust should consider the development of best practices and detailed instructions for libraries around how to match data, run reports, review items, and other steps involved in shared print participation to help libraries complete more generalized work related to shared print. We also need to be more clear about resource needs at local libraries to support shared print efforts.
  • Credits: As part of Phase 3, we had assumed some type of monetary support would be required to offset costs and encourage participants, but several pilot libraries said this was not a factor in their decision to participate. The uniqueness and preservation aspect of Phase 3 was more valuable to them and their local collections. The pilot libraries all shared that while credits were appreciated to offset costs, many of the potential commitments they reviewed were volumes their libraries would want to retain because they are unique or housed in unique collections, so the credits were not a motivating factor. HathiTrust will need to review the need for credits to support condition and validation work and/or offset other costs. 

HathiTrust will take time to systematically review each aspect of the feedback we received before any future full launches of Phase 3. More importantly, we will be evaluating each of these things in relation to decisions made regarding our new Strategic Vision. As we stated at the start of this project, changing the landscape of shared print will take time. Phase 3 continues to have the potential to transform how libraries think about shared print programs and given the feedback from our pilot libraries, it is a project still worth devoting time and effort into launching more broadly. 

You can read the entire Phase 3 Pilot Summary Report on our website.