HathiTrust Response to Covid-19, March 2020

March 16, 2020

From the Archive:
HathiTrust Response to Covid-19: March 2020

Information below pertains to HathiTrust’s response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), including service updates, status, and enhanced access. This page is updated regularly as status or service offerings change.

Service Announcement Messages

  • Continuation of ETAS and the Months Ahead, May 22, 2020
  • Emergency Temporary Access Service for Members by Request, March 31, 2020
  • Message from Executive Director, Mike Furlough, March 24, 2020
  • Message from Executive Director, Mike Furlough, March 13, 2020

Service Description: Emergency Temporary Access Service, June 15, 2020

Continuation of ETAS and The Months Ahead
Message to Members from Executive Director, Mike Furlough
May 22, 2020

Nearly two months after launching the Emergency Temporary Access Service (ETAS), it is in use at all but a handful of HathiTrust members. Currently 171 campuses in the U.S. and Canada are using ETAS to support millions of authorized library users. Collectively the students, faculty, and staff at these institutions have accessed these physically unavailable items almost 300,000 times. On an average day, over 2,200 unique users access about 3,800 unique items, each reading roughly 50 pages online at HathiTrust. Many of you and many of your colleagues have produced outstanding promotional and educational materials that helped make your users aware of this newly available resource.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we see glimmers of improvement and hope. But it is also clear that for higher education and libraries the emergency continues.  The crisis will not suddenly end, but evolve. There is obviously a great deal of uncertainty, but it will be quite a while before your libraries can begin to operate and provide access to your collections as you did in February 2020.

All of you are developing contingency plans and scenarios for limited physical re-entry to your workplaces and resumption of some services. Many of you have written to ask if you will be able to continue to rely upon HathiTrust’s emergency access service, and I appreciate your patience while we developed further guidance for you.  We know  that some of you may wish or need to rely on continued access to ETAS in order to protect the health and safety of your employees and users. Our goal is to support you in doing that. HathiTrust intends to provide the service where print collection access continues to be substantially disrupted due to public health issues.

We are not planning an indefinite extension of temporary access to these digital items after the pandemic eases.  But at this time, there is no established date for the cutoff of ETAS.  Our provision of the service is based on need, as demonstrated by a library that continues to be unable to provide access to collections as it normally would in light of public health concerns.

What does this mean in practice as you plan for re-opening? I can’t respond here to all hypothetical situations, so I want to share some guidance to address common scenarios we have heard:

Avoid circulating books that are available through ETAS. 

This is stated in our terms of service, but to elaborate:

  1. This includeslending to students, faculty, and staff, as well as to non-ETAS-eligible users, such as alumni; in addition, this excludes lending to other libraries via resource sharing arrangements. This is intended to preserve the principle of allowing 1 user for 1 copy of a book. If a book is available to your users via ETAS, it is because we understand that your users are unable to access that item in the way they normally would.
  2. This includes thedelivery, pickup, or other mediated access to physical books available through ETAS.To date we have activated ETAS for libraries providing delivery services if they can assure HathiTrust that ETAS books are not being loaned out. In the place of walk-in access, some libraries provide staff-mediated access to materials that are not found in HathiTrust, either to their own patrons or through interlibrary loan. We understand that relying on ETAS for even a portion of your collection reduces social contact during the pandemic.
  3. This includesILL and document delivery. Unfortunately ETAS does not and is not intended to support making copies for interlibrary loan or document delivery.  We do not enable the download of copies of books, or portions of books, for this purpose.

Assess your library’s operational status.
We recognize the status of library openings and closings will be a continuum rather than a single state. At this time, we are confident in the following scenarios and will adjust as circumstances evolve:

  1. Limited entry to the library:   We anticipate that most libraries using ETAS will need to continue to limit access to their physical facilities, although they may not be closed entirely as they had been over the spring.  Libraries may be planning to provide study spaces for their students on campus, albeit with a much lower occupancy rate. Some libraries providing limited study areas may not be able to physically restrict access to stacks. These situations will not automatically disqualify a member library for ETAS. What matters is whether you’re able to resume normal modes of access to your print collection.  A campus that is unable to welcome its entire student body back to campus is clearly not operating normally.
  1. Resumption of normal operations: If your public health situation improves to the point that users are able to enter the library without limitations and obtain access to the materials in the collection, or you are able to provide access to them in a normal fashion, then ETAS is no longer necessary and we ask you to contact HathiTrust so that we may deactivate it.  In some cases we will also be reaching out to you for information.

ETAS has been designed to respond to emergencies.  When the emergency has ended, so too must the service.  And, when new or different emergencies emerge in the future–for one library or many–HathiTrust will be ready to provide ETAS again quickly.

For most of you, your plans are likely still being worked out.  We expect you to report to us if and when you can begin to provide physical access to your collection as usual.  If your library has already made firm plans to begin regular access to collections, please contact support@hathitrust.org.

Otherwise, we do not need any other information at this time.  We are evaluating if and how to collect additional information from you that will support continued provision of ETAS.  We may need to modify our terms of service and functionality as new information comes to light, or to create new modes of lawful access, if feasible. We will give as much advance notice as we can should that be necessary. For now, however, you can use this message as guidance as you plan.

It has never been more clear how reliant we are on the actions of others, and how we have a shared responsibility to ensure the well-being of others in our communities.  Libraries have historically built strong trust networks to expand access to collections, to more efficiently describe and make them discoverable, and to preserve these materials.  Emergency Temporary Access Services are provided through one such trust network — HathiTrust — but its continued provision depends in part on our trust that it will continue to be used for the purposes it was developed.

Emergency Temporary Access Service for Members by Request
March 31, 2020

Today HathiTrust makes available to our members the Emergency Temporary Access Service (ETAS), which will allow students, faculty, and staff from eligible member libraries  to have online reading access to materials that are currently unavailable to them in their library collections. All users continue to have access to more than 6.7 million public domain and Creative Commons-licensed works. By offering this service, we intend to help continue to support teaching and research at institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

ETAS is available by request to all HathiTrust member libraries located in the U.S. that have experienced an unexpected or involuntarytemporary disruption to normal operations, requiring the library to be closed to the public, or otherwise to have restricted print collection access services. HathiTrust uses a request process to verify that the library meets these qualifications and to record information about the expected duration of need.

We have developed a careful and measured approach to this service, conforming to fair use under U.S. copyright law, in order to help students, teachers, and researchers continue to do their vital work.

Message from Executive Director, Mike Furlough
March 24, 2020

HathiTrust staff members are working hard to explore a new emergency service for member libraries that will provide expanded access for their students, faculty, and staff to digitized versions of items in member library collections. We intend to expand fair use access to our corpus to ensure that the academic communities of our members can continue teaching and learning with HathiTrust resources if physical access to print collections is compromised during the COVID-19 pandemic. Member libraries must meet specific emergency conditions and implement the service to the specifications that permit fair use access.

Our current plan is to configure and test this service within the next week. Based on the outcome of that testing we will make a final decision about availability.

We will not be able to extend this service to all members immediately.  Below are conditions under which HathiTrust could provide Emergency Temporary Access Service (ETAS) and the broad strokes of the service itself.

Many will have questions about the service and how to enable it, but it will be very difficult to provide direct responses to everyone at this time and still make progress on the launch of this service.  We ask you to please hold your questions for the moment.  We will communicate as soon as possible with more complete information. 

If you have questions or concerns in the meantime, please submit them to support@hathitrust.org

Academic Libraries Eligible for Emergency Access

HathiTrust member libraries located in the U.S. that have suffered an unexpected or involuntary disruption to normal operations, such as closure for a public health emergency like COVID-19 pandemic, requiring it to be closed to the public, or otherwise restrict print collection access services.

Emergency Temporary Access Service: Summary

Students, faculty, and staff ONLY at the affected institution will, upon logging in to HathiTrust, have access to copyrighted titles that the library owns and for which we have been able to identify a match through our ongoing holdings analysis. Users will be able to read the book online, in the web browser, but will not be able to download the work in full.


Message from Executive Director, Mike Furlough
March 13, 2020

Along with our member library campuses, we are closely monitoring developments related to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

I want all of you to take care of yourselves as you work through these challenging days.  At HathiTrust we are taking steps to protect the health and safety of our staff and communities while continuing to provide core HathiTrust services and support our members as their situation changes.

Here are steps that HathiTrust is taking in light of the current situation:

  • We are reviewing our policies, systems, and service guidelines to plan for potential emergency service offerings.
  • We have cancelled non-essential travel for HathiTrust staff to attend our quarterly  staff retreat, scheduled for March in Ann Arbor. Our employees have the option of working from home.
  • We are discontinuing plans for other non-essential travel to conferences or other events through at least May 31, and will re-evaluate this policy in May.
  • This means that, unfortunately, we have postponed HathiTrust Research Center workshops planned for April and May at Southern Methodist University, University of Colorado, Boulder, and Princeton University. We will discuss plans to reschedule with each of these hosts.

We will communicate as soon as possible with our representatives regarding changes to our services, or any new service offerings we may be able to provide.

It’s one of the more challenging moments we’ve faced together in many years, and we’re in awe of the library community’s resilience.  Thanks for your continued support of HathiTrust.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us.