Formalizing Accessions from Patrons for HathiTrust: “Hey, would you like this book I've got?”

https://pixabay.com/en/stack-of-books-vintage-books-book-1001655/ (CC0 - Public Domain)

Way back in the mists of time, HathiTrust Digital Library created a feedback ticketing system. That system received questions ranging from why a patron wasn’t able to access the pages of a volume to why the quality of a particular page wasn’t stellar to whether they would like this book that’s been sitting in my office for a while and isn’t yet in HathiTrust. I could go on and on about all the details involved in setting up that feedback ticketing system - and the infrastructure of volunteers that staff it - but that’s a post for another day.

I’d like to focus on one particular type of question - the “whether you would like this book that’s been sitting in my office for a while and isn’t yet in HathiTrust” question. In the past, HathiTrust’s Collection Services Librarian, Angelina Zaytsev, would handle all the workflow around this question. She would confirm that the volume was not in HathiTrust, and find out whether the volume was available through a contributing institution. In other words, she wanted to see if an institution that was already a member of HathiTrust had the volume on their shelves and could send it for scanning.

All of that still happens. What is different now is that the next step was also part of Angelina’s workload, when it should have been my department’s job to do! I manage the Digital Content & Collections (DCC) department in the Library Information Technology (LIT) division at the University of Michigan Library. The LIT division has been deeply invested in the HathiTrust Digital Library since the beginning - in fact, the software that runs HathiTrust has its roots in the DLXS digital collection platform we built in LIT almost 20 years ago. We remain close collaborators with HathiTrust in a multitude of efforts related to its infrastructure and content. Which is how this accessioning workflow came to the forefront, and why we’ve worked on teasing apart what is U-M’s portion and what is HathiTrust’s portion of the work.

So, in DCC, this is what we do:

  • Hosting and managing digital collections of materials from U-M & our libraries
  • Managing online finding aids for U-M & our libraries
  • Managing the remaining years of the Google book scanning project
  • Digitizing volumes on the shelf that Google cannot scan, as well as special collections, archives, realia, and other materials

And finally, now:

  • Accessioning volumes for U-M to be digitized for HathiTrust

First and foremost, what we mean by “accessioning” is the process of adding new materials to the library collection. That usually means adding materials to a library’s physical collection, but can also mean adding materials to digital collections.

Over the past several months, we’ve worked on new procedures for handling what we do next. What happens if no HathiTrust contributing institution has the volume on their shelves, and the volume is a good addition to the HathiTrust corpus? In these cases, U-M Library steps into the breach.

Since our department has the capacity to digitize volumes from our shelves that Google cannot scan - our Digital Conversion Unit can handle an average of 4500 volumes a year (vended and in-house digitization) - we can easily handle a small throughput of these volumes from HathiTrust. Since the patron’s volume has already been vetted by Angelina as to its merit for the HathiTrust corpus, we simply need approval from our U-M Library subject specialists to accession the volume for digitization, and we need to catalog and digitize the volume.

It does matter what type of accession is desired. We handle three kinds:

  • Physically accessioning a volume means that we will shelve the volume after digitizing
  • Digitally accessioning a volume means that we will not shelve the volume after digitizing
  • Virtually accessioning a volume means that the volume is on loan to us and will be returned to the patron

For any type of accession, we follow this basic procedure:

  1. Determine if the patron prefers physical, digital or virtual accession
  2. Determine if the patron is able to sign a HathiTrust permissions agreement that will allow it to be opened to the world in HathiTrust
  3. Contact a U-M subject specialist or collection coordinator for approval in accessioning for digitization, and request sublibrary/collection information if it is a “physical accession”
  4. Send to U-M Technical Services for cataloging
  5. Send to DCC’s Digital Conversion Unit for scanning
  6. Ingest the digital volume into HathiTrust and return volume to patron (as applicable)

To date, we have not had a large throughput of these volumes. They’ve come in big boxes of many volumes with few pages, half a shelf of bound volumes, and ones or twos here and there. We don’t expect that throughput to ramp up, so we hope the current procedures will be manageable for a number of years. We - myself and the manager of our Digital Conversion Unit in DCC - worked closely with the super folks in the Committee on Bibliographic and Access Management (CBAM) in Technical Services here at U-M Library, as well as Library’s group of subject specialists and collection coordinators, to make sure our procedures were adequate.

And none of this would be possible without the existence of the HathiTrust Digital Library! We’re looking forward to working more closely with the Angelina and others at HathiTrust, as well as with our CBAM colleagues, to continue to improve this workflow and make other useful process improvements.