While I think that preservation is clearly an important and major goal of the HathiTrust enterprise, I do not think that it will be its most important outcome of the project. Rather what is particularly unique and revolutionary about the HathiTrust is the massive scale of this collaborative effort. As Christenson points out, it is the size of the repository and the level of collaboration that positions the partner organizations in the position to “leverage technical infrastructure and collective expertise for digital preservation, services, and collection management on an unprecedented scale”.
It is not preservation or access or collection management alone that will be the long-term legacy of the enterprise, but the advances made on all these fronts by virtue of the massive collaboration, which no single library, research institution or university could have managed on its own. As Christenson goes on to point out that from work on developing meaningful metrics on the quality of a digital copy to improving metadata standards and platforms for discovery and access, “key benefit of collaboration is the ability to tap into expertise across these libraries”.
Further, the economies of scale of the HathiTrust are in play on the front end of the project with the size of the digitization project itself. As the HathiTrust Research Center video demonstrated scholars are looking at having access to a body of work that will allow for a revolution in scholarship and research, with the realization of the big data concept in the humanities that has been going on in the sciences for some time and for providing new platforms for exciting new ventures in interdisciplinary research and collaboration, further realizing the impacts of the repository into the future. For example the the image is of a map created by a historian who used analyzed references in over 1 billion pages of digitized books to map the geography of the Civil War discourse (for more info click on the image)