Thank You to Our Working Groups and Task Forces
October 19, 2023
As you know, we strive to ensure that HathiTrust remains aligned with our members and draws upon your expertise as we carry out our programs and services. For example, HathiTrust member staff contribute time daily to operational activities through the HathiTrust User Support Team and as part of our Copyright Review Team. We have standing advisory committees for particular programs, including the Shared Print Advisory Committee and the Federal Documents Advisory Committee. And we also employ special task forces and working groups to advise on HathiTrust’s strategies and explore new programmatic work. In future blog posts we’ll highlight the work of these teams and advisory committees.
We are in the middle of our strategic visioning process, but here I would like to reflect on the work we undertook as part of the strategic directions we adopted for 2019-2023. In early 2020, shortly after we completed our last round of strategic planning, HathiTrust’s Program Steering Committee (PSC) formed four new groups to advance our strategic directions, bringing focus to collections, metadata, and user engagement. Each of these had been identified in our strategic planning process as areas of special focus.
I want to thank the more than 40 different people (working at 35 different HathiTrust member libraries) who took part in these working groups and task forces (the full list is included at the end of this post). They devoted substantial amounts of time over many months to form recommendations for actions HathiTrust should take, or drafted policy recommendations, depending upon their charge. Based on their work, we have implemented new services and continue to explore many of their other recommendations. I don’t have the space to write about all of their work at length, but I do want to highlight what our colleagues accomplished on behalf of HathiTrust and outline some of the actions we are taking in response.
Working Groups and Task Forces
The Digital Collections Strategy Working Group (DCSWG) explored opportunities for HathiTrust members to add new and underrepresented material to the collection. DCSWG investigated these issues with members through surveys, webcasts, and sessions held during HathiTrust Community Week, and worked with the HathiTrust staff to complete HathiTrust’s Collection Principles to guide collection recruitment. Their 2022 report summarized findings and offered recommendations to simplify member deposit, consider additional formats for inclusion in the digital library, and identify collection gaps, and create guidelines for members to select and prioritize material from their collections for deposit in HathiTrust.
As we began 2023, we recognized that our collections plans going forward will be influenced by the outcome of strategic visioning work. To allow us time to focus on overall organizational directions, we decided that it would be wise to suspend the work of the DCSWG, and reevaluate its focus after we completed our current visioning process. However, DCSWG’s most recent recommendations remain valid and useful to shape collection building work going forward. Following an analysis by the HathiTrust staff, their proposed projects are now in our operational portfolio queue to analyze for resource needs and scheduling.
The Community Metadata Strategy Task Force (CMSTF) evaluated opportunities for HathiTrust to improve and enhance the quality of member-contributed and internally-generated metadata supporting our digital library. Their extensive report includes many near, medium, and long-term recommendations to address workflows for contributing content and enhancing data to improve discovery. The overall thrust of CMSTF’s work was to strongly encourage HathiTrust to shift its role from “holder and recipient” of metadata to more active stewardship, ensuring we maintain the highest quality records for discovery and collection management.
The Metadata Sharing Policy Task Force (MSPTF), running concurrently, completed the Metadata Sharing Policy by drafting specific policies to guide sharing of over a dozen categories of metadata stewarded by HathiTrust. These provide guidance on how and under what conditions we could share specific forms of metadata such as rights, holdings, extracted features, and bibliographic data.
We have been working through the recommendations of both of these task forces, keeping in mind the complexity of managing metadata at scale while serving the needs of scholarship. As we take action to address metadata quality, we remain grounded in how we can best support discovery, access, preservation, and knowledge of the HathiTrust digital corpus. In the short term, we are enabling members to improve the quality of records submitted to HathiTrust through the recently launched Metadata Quality Improvement Program, improving our existing sharing services, such as our OAI service, and examining resource needs to address evolving data challenges in our management systems. The full range of recommendations made by CMSTF will influence our work for the coming years.
The User Engagement Task Force (UETF) investigated how HathiTrust could better understand and support end users of the HathiTrust Digital Library. They conducted a survey of members that yielded new qualitative insights on member and user needs. Their recommendations offered ways we could improve existing programs and communications activities such as the newsletter, community week, and the member meeting. They also recommended exploring interface challenges, which were highlighted in the survey as barriers to accessing HathiTrust materials. We have been focusing more attention on user testing and feature improvements in the last few years, and our work with the University of California on Project LEND includes additional user research and the hire of a dedicated user experience specialist. We relied heavily on the UETF’s work in 2022-23 as we planned the redevelopment and relaunch of the HathiTrust web site earlier this year and tailored our site to guide users towards the information they need. The new HathiTrust Help Center now provides users and members with clear answers to common questions.
Our initial plans for these last five years did not, of course, include a pandemic and the rapid worldwide launch of the Emergency Temporary Access Service (ETAS). The pandemic certainly diverted our attention away from our intended work, and initially delayed our task forces and working groups that had been charged early in 2020. However those events did not alter our focus on strategies for collections, metadata, and user engagement, and these task forces and working groups will ground our work for some time to come. Aligning our work through member input is a critical part of HathiTrust’s identity. My colleagues and I are deeply grateful to the individuals who worked on all of these task focus and working groups: they spent numerous hours exploring HathiTrust’s services and collections, evaluating potential paths, and developing their recommendations for our work. They provided necessary expert member perspectives on aspects of HathiTrust’s programmatic work that have the greatest impact on members and users.
We also look for member input to advise on HathiTrust overall future. In March, HathiTrust announced a Strategic Visioning process to lead us into our second fifteen years. This ambitious program has been rooted in research and exploration and open to the possibility of substantial changes in our future work. Our partners at Athenaeum21 have since conducted dozens of interviews, led nearly 30 hours of workshops and focus groups, and analyzed several hundred survey responses from members and non-members alike. We are now beginning to make sense of all that we have heard and synthesize it into possible courses of action. We expect to complete our strategic visioning work early in 2024, and our 2023 HathiTrust Member Meeting on October 26 will provide our membership with an opportunity to learn more about our work so far and to advise on potential directions we may take.
NOTE: We list affiliations current at the time of appointment.
Digital Collection Strategy Working Group Members
Miranda Bennett, University of South Carolina
Heather Christenson, HathiTrust
Joanna Di Pasquale, Union College
Eugene Flanagan, Library of Congress
Natalie Fulkerson, HathiTrust
Emily Gore, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Liz Gushee, University of Texas
Casey Hoeve, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Salwa Ismail, University of California, Berkeley
Rice Majors, University of California, Davis
Amanda Moreno, University of Miami
Danielle Robichaud, University of Waterloo
Fred Roscoe, Georgia Tech
Jason Roy, University of Minnesota
Kathryn Stine, California Digital Library
Michael Williams, Cambridge University
Wade Wycoff, McMaster University (Chair)
Community Metadata Strategy Task Force
Benjamin Bradley, University of Maryland
Barbara Cormack, California Digital Library
Graham Dethmers, HathiTrust
Joseph Hafner, McGill University
MJ Han, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Chair)
Nancy Lin, New York University
Chris Long, University of Colorado Boulder
Elizabeth Miraglia, University of California, San Diego
Michelle Paolillo, Cornell University
Andrea Payant, Utah State University
Tim Prettyman, University of Michigan
Sheila Torres-Blank, Texas State University
Metadata Sharing Policy Task Force
Greg Cram, New York Public Library (Concluding Co-Chair)
Ana Enriquez, Penn State University (Concluding Co-Chair)
Erin Grant, University of Washington
Kristina Hall, HathiTrust
Stephen Hearn, University of Minnesota (First Chair)
Xiaoli Li, University of California, Davis
Harish Maringanti, University of Utah
Youn Noh, Yale University
Emily Thaisrivongs, Haverford College (First Co-Chair)
User Engagement Task Force
Chris Cox, Clemson University (Chair)
Renata Ewing, California Digital Library
Peter Fernandez, University of Tennessee
Kiana Jones, University of Pittsburgh
Megan Macken, Oklahoma State University
Ashely Maynor, New York University
Denise Pan, University of Washington
Jessica Rohr, HathiTrust
Lynne Serviss, McMaster University
Ange Zaytsev, HathiTrust