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Why We Are Doubling Down on Digitizing Books

Flexibility and ease of use for research, accessibility, emergency preparedness, and elevating diverse voices

Quick Facts

  • We are scanning about 750 volumes per week.
  • Scans are added to HathiTrust within 1 to 2 days.
  • Collectively, UC has contributed 4.6 million scanned volumes to HathiTrust — or 26% of HathiTrust’s digital library.

Last spring, the UC Davis Library began strategic scanning of content from its print collections to build out the HathiTrust Digital Library, a not-for-profit collaborative of academic and research libraries that makes digitized books available to scholars around the world.

Many UC Davis scholars and students relied heavily on HathiTrust for access to digital versions of our print books and journals during 2020-2021, when our library facilities were closed or had very limited services and access. Our reliance on HathiTrust during the pandemic has sharpened our ability to see its value. We have a strong self-interest (to say nothing of selfless interests!) in helping HathiTrust build broader collections that would support research, instruction, and clinical care at UC Davis.

The HathiTrust corpus is built almost entirely by academic libraries having their collections scanned and then contributed. There are myriad benefits to our participation, including:

  • Emergency preparedness: As we learned from the pandemic, of course, but also in awareness that Davis and Sacramento are in a flood plain and at risk for fire and smoke conditions
  • Preservation: An additional way to ensure the long-term preservation of our collections
  • Research: The entire corpus of HathiTrust can be used for text-mining and similar research methods via the HathiTrust Research Center — even materials still in copyright
  • Rights management: HathiTrust will investigate the copyright status of materials where that status is unknown
  • Inclusivity and access: HathiTrust will provide additional access for users who are blind or have other print disabilities — even materials still in copyright

At the onset of the pandemic, HathiTrust had digital versions of about 49% of the UC Davis print collections, mostly from scanning other libraries’ collections that own the same materials. (UC Davis had also contributed some materials earlier, including our print theses and dissertations.) That said, the best way to make sure HathiTrust has content to support UC Davis researchers is for us to contribute our own content.

We will initially focus on parts of our collection that are clearly in the public domain as well as materials with an uncertain copyright status (which may turn out to be in the public domain) as these will be immediately available for unrestricted use. However, we will also target some other parts of our collection:

  • Materials that directly support instruction at UC Davis
  • Materials that would strengthen the inclusivity of the HathiTrust corpus (for example, underrepresented languages, authorial voices and subject matter)
  • Materials that are held by very few research libraries in North America — and are therefore difficult to obtain via interlibrary loan (for example, rare books on agriculture, wine and other areas of excellence for UC Davis)


Research Tools and Services


book digitization Faculty Newsletter