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U.S. Federal Documents Program Update, July 2018

Federal Documents within the HathiTrust Digital Library, as of July 1, 2018

  • 500,514 bibliographic records
  • 1,236,883 digital objects
  • 469,474 monographs
  • 30,613 serial titles

Our growing collection

Our federal documents collection continues to grow, thanks to our many contributing libraries! For more information on the federal documents collection, including monthly statistical views, please see the Collection Profile. Digitization projects take a lot of effort to accomplish, and we’d like to acknowledge all of the hard work of library staff that has resulted in digital federal documents available in HathiTrust. The numbers do not tell the whole story of the investment made, and value, of our aggregate collection.

Aiming for completeness

The initial federal documents “gap-filling” project, intended to test our ability to provide actionable data on items needed to fill out the HathiTrust collection on selected topics of interest and to test libraries’ ability to provide those volumes for digitization via existing workflows, has reached a checkpoint at the end June. Digitization for needed items continues at the libraries, but we are assessing the project and determining what the next steps will be. Likely paths include involving a wider group of participants, and the convening of a regular HathiTrust digitization discussion. Thank you to the libraries of the University of Michigan, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, and University of Minnesota for your participation.  If your member library is interested in collaborative digitization of federal documents and/or efforts to add needed items into HathiTrust, please contact Heather Christenson christeh@hathitrust.org.

User needs investigation

In addition to the environmental scan completed last quarter, we’ve now completed a federal documents-focused user needs survey. The survey was launched in April and we received 185 responses. Some of the key findings were that respondents consider HathiTrust a go-to place for older federal government documents, and that they like the ability to search the full text of many publications that aren’t digitally available anywhere else. At the same time, there are questions about the scope and comprehensiveness of the HathiTrust collection. For more details, please see our recent blog post regarding the survey results.

Currently we are focused on analyzing and learning from the results of the survey, and planning for the more hands-on user study later in the year. The user study will be conducted in a format where users are observed as they attempt to perform specific tasks within the HathiTrust Digital Library. It is expected to provide direct insights into use patterns and needs.

Tackling bibliographic data challenges

Several improvements focused on federal documents are scheduled to be made this year within Zephir, the HathiTrust metadata management system, as an outcome of collaborative efforts amongst HathiTrust metadata and federal documents staff over the past months. The improvements are 1) an adjustment to the process that determines the “best record” for a given federal document that is displayed to end users, and 2) later in the year, a new “fed docs suggester” report will be produced for HathiTrust libraries when they contribute content and associated bibliographic data, suggesting bibliographic corrections to better identify federal documents.  As a result of these improvements, we expect that more federal documents will be accurately identified and provided in full view.

In the community

Program Officer Heather Christenson held several “office hours” sessions at the 2018 ALA Annual Meeting. During these sessions HathiTrust staff had a chance to meet with members, learn more about the ways our federal documents collection is being used, and discuss ideas for metadata improvement, collaborative digitization and collection development.  Thanks to those who attended, and we look forward to further discussions and action on these topics!