Reflections on the 2016 Member Meeting

December 21, 2016

By Mike Furlough

Note: This message was sent to HathiTrust members on December 20, 2016

At the end of a stressful, fractious, and divisive year in the US and beyond, I hope we can all agree that it’s good to see it drawing to a close.  That said, all of us at HathiTrust have been buoyed all year long by the work we do, and that’s in no small part because our membership so strongly believes in the necessity of our work and in developing community focused solutions to our common challenges.  We saw this when we issued calls for voluntary participation in our copyright review and shared print programs.  In both cases the response nearly doubled what we had expected and planned for.  And it was evident at the 2016 Members Meeting, which we held in Chicago on November 10.  (The agenda, presentations, and notes from the meeting are all available online.)

During a panel titled “HathiTrust and Its Members,” participants noted that HathiTrust members have relationships with many other consortial entities and wondered how we can truly collaborate within and beyond HathiTrust to “connect the dots” among disparate programs and activities. These comments were echoed throughout the day by other attendees, who drew attention to where HathiTrust’s current work provides a platform upon which to exert greater influence over the collections landscape and national policy.

HathiTrust has always had a “big footprint” mission. So where should we tread, and how, as we enter our ninth year?  Even though some of the same challenges remain, it is a very different world for libraries and higher education than when we launched in 2008.  At its Fall meeting, the Board of Governors discussed a process for strategic visioning to take place in 2017, which will necessarily engage the membership.  This will be accompanied by development of a multi-year financial plan and some likely refinement of the HathiTrust cost model to ensure that it remains equitable. This work follows from the recommendations of the Committee on Membership and Finance, which we previewed during the Members Meeting. (We will share that work in a more formal way in the new year.)

We’ve already begun making plans for next year’s Member Meeting and will announce dates and location by the spring.  It’s always a challenge to strike the right balance between reporting on our activities and diving deep on them in a single day.  Based on attendee feedback for our most recent meeting, and based on our planned focus on future development in 2017, you can be sure that at the next meeting you will have more opportunities to explore and engage actively about the key issues brought before the membership.

To be honest, the US election week turned out to be a weird time for many to attend a professional conference. People were distracted and several mentioned to me some brewing issues that awaited them back home. As the day progressed, I did sense a subtle turn in mood, as if focusing on our collective commitment for a few hours gave us some break from the anxiety that we may have felt.  As I said that day, the work we do to preserve and make collections accessible really does matter to me, and it matters to our users, and it matters to the future.  It is not sufficient in itself, and it’s not the only thing that matters, but it’s a base on which we can continue to build and realize our own visions for the future.

On that note, on behalf of all of us at HathiTrust, let me offer you and your colleagues best wishes. We hope that your coming year takes you to the places in your work and your life that you most wish to go.