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HathiTrust partnership expands access to library collections

By Lynne Raughley 

The HathiTrust Digital Library will partner with the recently launched Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) to expand discovery and use of HathiTrust’s public domain and other openly available content.

DPLA provides an online portal to freely available digital material held by libraries, archives, and museums across the United States. By offering a unified discovery point for these disparate collections, DPLA aims to make readily available to the public the words, images, sounds, and objects of America’s shared cultural heritage.

“HathiTrust’s joining the Digital Public Library of America more than doubles the size of our unified collection, and—as so many have asked for—fills it with millions of books,” said Dan Cohen, DPLA’s Executive Director. “We couldn’t be more delighted. Over the last five years, HathiTrust has built an incredible digital infrastructure to store the scanned holdings of its many university and library partners, and we in turn look forward to providing a large general audience for these valuable works, and new pathways into them.”

According to HathiTrust Executive Director John Wilkin, the partnership reflects the complementary nature of the two organizations. “The first priority of HathiTrust has always been preservation,” he said. “But to fulfill the preservation mission, we must provide access: content that can’t be found and used risks being forgotten.”

Wilkin stressed that HathiTrust will continue to enhance its own discovery and access platform, first launched in 2008. But DPLA puts HathiTrust’s collection before a broader audience, alongside innovative search and use tools, including timelines, maps, and a growing number of apps.

Of HathiTrust’s nearly 11 million volumes, the metadata records associated with the almost 3.5 million that are freely available will be accessible on the web at, and through the DPLA application programming interface (API), making HathiTrust a DPLA  “content hub.” (The digitized volumes themselves will continue to reside in HathiTrust.)

The partnership makes HathiTrust the single largest DPLA content hub, in the company of institutions such as the Smithsonian, the National Archives, the New York Public Library, and many others.

“DPLA, like HathiTrust, was founded on the belief that digital collections in aggregate become much more valuable than the sum of their parts,” Wilkin said. This shared vision was a strong incentive to overcome barriers to the partnership. The HathiTrust metadata will be contributed under the terms of a Creative Commons “CC0” license, and Wilkin cites the support of OCLC, the worldwide library cooperative, for the contribution of records possibly derived from its WorldCat database.

Sandy Yee, Chair of the OCLC Board of Trustees, explained that DPLA’s Data Use Best Practices, which request that users provide attribution to metadata providers, are in keeping with OCLC community data norms.

“We are very pleased to support the discovery of this rich aggregation of freely available texts via the DPLA,” said Yee. “Their work and that of HathiTrust amplifies and extends the efforts of the thousands of library contributors to the OCLC cooperative.”

The partnership officially begins today, and the data is in the process of being transferred from HathiTrust to the Digital Public Library of America. DPLA will be working to add a special interface for books to supplement its novel map and timeline browsing interfaces, but the HathiTrust content will be available through the current site as soon as the data is loaded.

HathiTrust is a community of research institutions working to permanently preserve and make accessible the scholarly and cultural record. HathiTrust grew from a 2007 U-M Library proposal that a consortium of institutions share a copy of their growing digital collections. Today, HathiTrust encompasses more than 80 institutional partners, and the digitized collections of some of the largest libraries in the world.

The Digital Public Library of America brings together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums, and makes them freely available to the world. It strives to contain the full breadth of human expression, from the written word, to works of art and culture, to records of America’s heritage, to the efforts and data of science.


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