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Constitutional Convention 2011

HathiTrust was chartered by the founding partners for an initial 5-year period, from 2008-2012, with a formal review of governance and sustainability to be conducted by the partners in the third year. In October 2011, institutions who joined HathiTrust by October 31, 2010 participated in a Constitutional Convention to determine the governance model for the partnership and set directions for its next phase. 

The HathiTrust Constitutional Convention was held in Washington, D.C. from October 8-9, 2011. Documents and information relating to the Convention are posted below.


The Constitutional Convention consisted of a series of sessions over 2 days, attended by delegates from each partner institution and consortium. The sessions were designed to consider the ballot proposals submitted by partner institutions, allowing for amendments to proposals, and culminating in a final vote by partners. Each partnering institution or consortium that joined HathiTrust prior to October 31, 2010 was allocated a certain number of votes that it could cast toward the proposals, based on a formula that considered the member's financial contribution and contribution of digital content. A paper and accompanying table outlining the vote weighting process are available at the following links: Weighted Voting Models for the HathiTrust Constitutional Convention; Voting Models Table.


Frequently Asked Questions

How were institutional and consortial voting allocations for the Convention determined?

In 2009, at the request of the Executive Committee in its planning for the Constitutional Convention, staff at the University of Michigan conducted research into effective multi-party weighting models. The HathiTrust Executive Committee asked for a number of factors to be considered in establishing such a model. These included elements that might be indicative of the level of investment in the enterprise, such as duration of participation, role in establishing HathiTrust, the number of volumes contributed, and financial contributions. As a result of the research performed and subsequent Executive Committee discussions, the Executive Committee developed a model based on financial contributions (excluding resources-in-kind), and volumes in the repository. An institution's voting allocation is based on the sum of the square roots of the institution's monetary contributions and deposited volumes. The allocations have been normalized to represent a percentage of 100 total votes, and have been rounded to the nearest whole number. Allocations that came to less than 1% of the total were rounded up to ensure that the smaller contributors have a single vote. A full discussion of the rationale behind weighted voting models and the approach taken is online at http://www.hathitrust.org/documents/VotingModels.pdf.

Are there any limitations on areas in which partners can submit proposals?

Partners may submit proposals on any topics, in any areas, including the new cost model that is planned to take effect in 2013. The new cost model was conceived by the Executive Committee as the foundation for an equitable distribution of costs based on the relative value of the collection, rather than deposit. Current plans are based on the new cost model, as described; this, however, should not discourage partners from proposing amendments or enhancements to the cost model, or indeed a different cost model.

HathiTrust 3-year Review

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The HathiTrust digital repository contracted with Ithaka S+R to conduct a three-year review of HathiTrust’s progress toward meeting the needs of libraries, scholars, students and other users. The review will inform discussion and promote participation at the October 8-10, 2011 Constitutional Convention in Washington DC. The Strategic Advisory Board (SAB) provided the oversight for the review, working closely with the Ithaka S&R staff assigned to the project.

Ithaka’s efforts included gathering and preparing research on HathiTrust’s existing structure and needs, including background meetings with stakeholders, team members at the University of Michigan, and members of both the Executive Committee and the Strategic Advisory Board. A survey and review of user needs followed the initial research. A survey was sent to the 52 HathiTrust content contributing partners and non-content sustaining members. Ithaka S+R also interviewed 20 representatives from libraries that do not currently participate in HathiTrust, along with 12 scholars in the humanities and social sciences. The survey results are included as part of the final report.

The SAB received the final report on July 15, 2011 and has officially transmitted it to the HathiTrust Executive Committee. The report is being made available to the world, including delivery to the membership so that they have time to carefully read the report and have any necessary discussions prior to the Constitutional Convention in October. 

The SAB offers the following perspectives at this time, wanting to reserve complete discussion for the Constitutional Convention. The report provides a foundation for substantive discussions. The SAB agrees with Ithaka's conclusions and next steps which represent many of the digital repository's challenges, but it is not surprising that the SAB has a different perspective on some of the issues raised. 

It bears repeating that the HathiTrust digital repository has made tremendous progress over its first three years. The repository contains over 9 million volumes with 60 partner institutions today. HathiTrust is on everyone's radar. All of the short-term functional goals and objectives have been met, and the digital repository is now TRAC certified. Certainly a job well-done, but what's next? 

The strength of the collaborative is in thinking big while engaging in focused strategic work. The challenge is to remain focused on strategic needs by not trying to be everything for everyone, while at the same time continuing to tackle large issues. 

The value of the partnership is real -- rather than philosophical. Trusted digital preservation is central, and access to curated collections with more and more local, shared content is a developing area of growth.  Technology and policies allow institutions to provide full access to selected digital files to those with print disabilities. This is an important step forward with tremendous value and support. HathiTrust is directly impacted by the eagerness to assert Fair Use to identify and provide access to in-copyright orphan works. Challenges persist, but technical tools exist that can provide a variety of protections to safeguard access. Image quality is constantly being improved; addressing verification concerns, which then supports shared print management efforts among partners. 

There is no lack of work facing the Executive Committee, the Strategic Advisory Board, the committees and working groups, and the entire membership. The Ithaka S+R report clearly identifies important next steps for each group to consider. We should, however, pause to acknowledge the impact of the rapid emergence of the HathiTrust digital repository on the landscape. HathiTrust has been defined by its membership governance model, focused decision making, and a distributed staffing model during its first three years of existence. Staying focused on strategic needs has been a strength and is perhaps the most significant defining feature of the HathiTrust digital repository to date.


Ed Van Gemert
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Chair, HathiTrust Strategic Advisory Board
July 27, 2011