The HathiTrust Digital Library, which has housed online collections from research institutions and libraries across the country and world since 2008, recently widened its breadth of information.

The digital library doubled its partnerships over the past year, bringing the total to 52. Among the library’s 26 new partners are The Library of Congress, Harvard University and the University of Madrid — the first international partner.

John Wilkin, executive director of HathiTrust and associate University librarian, said HathiTrust is attractive to institutions that have an abundance of content and are searching for a place to house their digital works, which will be added to the library’s more than 7 million volumes.

“(The University of) Madrid has lots of content and needs to store it at a lower cost,” Wilkin said.

In addition to new partners, HathiTrust also added new features within the library, including a full text search of the library’s information base and more resources for users with “print disabilities,” Wilkin said.

Those affiliated with partnering institutions also have new privileges, like the ability to download entire books or to create and share a personal collection of books.

Founded in partnership with the University of California system, the University of Virginia and the Committee on Institutional Cooperation — of which the University of Michigan is a member — HathiTrust is not restricted to partnering institutions, and is available to anyone with Internet access. However, partner affiliates have access to more features. Wilkin said he believes the University plays a part in allowing this vast collection to remain public.

“There is this Michigan commitment to public good,” Wilkin said. “When we open things up, we open it up to everybody whether they’re paying for it or not. It’s very important to have this library without walls.”

The University prepared for the creation of its digital library when it first partnered with Google to digitize its collection, according to information provided by library staff. In the agreement with Google, the University “insisted” on being able to publicly share the digital copies it receives from Google.

HathiTrust gives University students easy access to a wider array of resources than in previous years, Wilkin said. This is due in large part to the fact that HathiTrust holdings are included in each Mirlyn search, eliminating the need for students to go from library to library to look for a book, he said.

“A person doing research today has access to a more and more comprehensive body of materials without having to search out those materials,” Wilkin said. “(He or she) can focus on the conclusions rather than the hunt, and the conclusions are most important.”

Tom Hubbard, an information resources reference specialist at the Hatcher Graduate Library, said the now-expanded HathiTrust has untapped potential as a resource for University students.

“I don’t know how much awareness the student community has of it, but if they are aware it will help their research,” Hubbard said.

Mariah Cherem, a first-year graduate student in the School of Information, echoed Hubbard’s concerns about the lack of student awareness, but said she feels HathiTrust can help students in a variety of ways.

“It’s useful for students’ research interests in school, but also for their personal interests,” Cherem said.

According to information provided by University library staff, the partner institutions will participate in a “constitutional convention” in 2011 to formally review HathiTrust and outline its future.

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