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Eric Bartheld
IU Bloomington Libraries

Last modified: Friday, April 17, 2009

Library partners launch shared digital repository

There's an elephant in the library, and organizers promise it will never forget

September 3, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University will join some of the nation's largest research libraries in collaborating to make their vast digital collections -- including millions of volumes of books -- freely available online, organizers announced today. These holdings will be archived and preserved in a single repository called the HathiTrust.

Wells Library

The Wells Library on the Bloomington campus of Indiana University

Print-Quality Photo

Launched by the 12-university consortium known as the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), this shared digital repository leverages the time-honored commitment to preservation that university libraries have valued for centuries.

"The effort holds even greater promise as it seeks to grow beyond the initial partners," said John Wilkin, associate university librarian of the University of Michigan and the newly named executive director of HathiTrust. Hathi (pronounced HAH-tee), the Hindi word for elephant incorporated into the repository's name, underscores the immensity of this undertaking, Wilkin said. Elephants also evoke memory, wisdom and strength.

Currently, HathiTrust contains approximately 1.5 million volumes and 525 million pages, about 20 percent of which are in the public domain. Volumes are added daily, and content will grow as CIC member libraries -- and other prospective partners -- contribute their digitized content.

Creation of the repository follows the announcement last year that the CIC and Google entered a collective agreement to digitize select collections of the CIC libraries, up to 10 million volumes, as part of the Google Book Search project. Google aims to digitize all of the books in the world.

The University of Michigan and Indiana University, both highly regarded for their expertise in the areas of information technology, digital libraries and project management, are leading the creation of the repository. All members of the CIC are the initial partners in this effort.

"The CIC Libraries have always worked at a large scale, with big collections, big user communities and high expectations for service. They are not intimidated by big challenges, and will bring their comfort with this to the development of the shared digital repository," said Mark Sandler, director of the CIC Center for Library Initiatives.

"Researchers will benefit from the expert curation and consistent access they have long associated with the CIC research libraries," said Indiana University President Michael McRobbie. "Great libraries have long been essential to outstanding scholarship, and the HathiTrust collaboration among the CIC institutions and others provides an essential tool for 21st- century scholars."

"Digitization of print texts has the promise of being transformative of scholarship and of library practice," said Paul Courant, University of Michigan librarian, dean of libraries, and former provost. "In both areas, the ability to search many texts and to preserve texts accessibly create tremendous opportunities for collaboration amongst scholars and universities. HathiTrust has made a good start, and like the elephant for which it is named, we expect that it will prove able to carry and deliver valuable resources with grace and reliability."

The project will soon include other libraries from around the nation that seek long-term archiving solutions or that want to make their materials available through the shared repository.

HathiTrust provides libraries a means to archive their digitized content, whether scanned volumes, special collections, or born-digital materials. Preserving materials for the long term has long been a mission and driving force of leading research libraries. Their collections, accumulated over centuries, represent a treasury of cultural heritage and investment in the broad public good of promoting scholarship and advancing knowledge.

"Before this collaboration," Wilkin says, "the collections in each library existed in isolation. Now we are bringing them together, pooling resources and eliminating redundancies, and producing a valuable research tool."

The Committee on Institutional Cooperation includes the universities of the Big Ten, plus the University of Chicago. Partner libraries represent Indiana University, University of Illinois, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Iowa, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota, Northwestern University, Ohio State University, Penn State University, Purdue University and University of Wisconsin-Madison.