October 5, 2021

Stewart appointed chair-elect of HathiTrust Board

Claire Stewart, Dean of Libraries, was appointed chair-elect to the HathiTrust Board of Governors during their meeting on August 18.

Claire Stewart, dean of the University Libraries, was appointed chair-elect to the HathiTrust Board of Governors during their meeting on Aug. 18.

Claire Stewart, dean of the University Libraries, has been appointed chair-elect of the HathiTrust Board of Governors.

HathiTrust is the one of the largest and most successful digital library projects today, with more than 17 million digitized books. HathiTrust was founded jointly by the Libraries of the Big Ten (then the Committee on Institutional Cooperation) and the University of California system. It was formed primarily to ensure that universities had their own copy of all the books being scanned by Google and Internet Archive.

“HathiTrust is an incredibly optimistic and forward-thinking organization to preserve digitized materials and prepare for technology that we can’t even conceive of yet,” Stewart said. “The organization needs to have champions that believe in its work who are willing to put their time and effort into helping build the future. That’s why I wanted to serve on the board.”

The selection, announced Aug. 18, is effective immediately. Stewart will serve on the board’s executive committee in the role through December 2022. In 2023, she will serve as the board chair, and as past chair in 2024. Stewart joined the board as a representative from the Big Ten Conference.

According to Stewart, HathiTrust has initiated several ground-breaking projects within its membership including the multi-institutional project of checking the copyright status on books published after 1923 and suspected to be in the public domain. Books published in the U.S. before 1923 are already in the public domain and freely accessible through HathiTrust to anyone in the world who wants to read them.

Checking each individual book suspected of being in the public domain is an extremely laborious process but the project has had a high success rate. A boon to libraries, scholars, and scholarship has been the addition of a huge number of titles that are newly released for full-text viewing in HathiTrust’s database: 900,000 have been reviewed, and more than 509,000 found to be in the public domain.

“The University of Nebraska could not do such a project on its own,” Stewart said. “Our modest investment, as a member of HathiTrust, has given the university a huge return on its investment.”

Another ground-breaking initiative occurred because of the pandemic and the disruption it caused at academic institutions and their libraries across the nation. HathiTrust helped make the legal case for expanding online access to their vast digital library using a “loan-to-own” digital access mechanism known as the Emergency Temporary Access Services, leading to a vast explosion of access.

Academic libraries, including the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s libraries, matched their book collections against HathiTrust’s collection resulting in those titles being available for online access even if the books were still in copyright. Nebraska’s faculty and students had access to almost 50% of the University Libraries collection via this service from April 2020 to July 2021.

“What I love most about HathiTrust is that it is such a great example of how libraries are in it for the long haul and take the long view to create a better future for scholars,” Stewart said.