I’ve found that when we discuss community in librarianship, we’re talking about a more touchy-feely definition: the idea of finding common cause among professionals or connecting through relationships. And while I don’t doubt this happens among the actual people involved in HathiTrust, they’ve done an excellent job of using the community they’ve built for resource-sharing, shouldering the work, and for allowing new members to become integral parts of its governmental structure.
IThere are more than 60 partners in HathiTrust, as of 2013, and as we know from our time here at a large research university, academia is a world with a fair amount of politicking and where endowments and prestige can sometimes overwhelm institutions that lack those things. They’ve done a brilliant job of democratizing the way they’re structured to make sure that partner institutions get a say, no matter their size, particularly as they keep growing.
York notes that their original governing structure allowed for an evaluation period and a constitutional convention to ensure that new members were involved in establishing HathiTrust’s future directions. HathiTrust started with 13 institutions in 2008. In 2011, 52 institutions sent representatives to its constitutional convention. Half the seats in the Board of Governors remain with the founding schools, but the other half are elected, and representatives from the founding schools cannot run for those seats. HathiTrust’s host school retains only one appointed seat — I wouldn’t have blinked if they’d insisted on having a third of the seats.
So while this isn’t exactly what we think of when we think of a community, I am struck that a repository so devoted to openness and sharing takes a similarly democratic approach to how its run.